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Fare-free school bus trial given green light by Regional Counci
3 July 2019
Fare-free school bus trial given green light by Regional Counci
A one-year trial in 2020 of fare-free bus transport for Tauranga school students was last week adopted as part of Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Annual Plan 2019/20. 
 
Transport was one of the key focus areas of consultation on the Annual Plan, with Councillors also agreeing to progress a trial in 2020 of services to help tertiary students and commuters travel between Whakatāne, Rotorua, Katikati and Tauranga.
 
In addition, the living wage will be extended to Rotorua and Eastern Bay bus operators. To focus on older people SuperGold Card holders will soon be able to travel for free for extended periods each day as part of another trial.
 
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair Doug Leeder said he was pleased to see the Annual Plan 2019/20 adopted, and expects the transport trials will provide some solid information for staff to use when the decision of whether or not to continue the trials on a permanent basis comes back to Council.
 
“The deliberations highlighted the importance of the role Passenger Transport has in the region, and that we need to be getting it right to ensure the people that require it most have ready access to it,” he said.
 
Where there is a net cost to Council, transport initiatives will primarily be funded through targeted rates, meaning that those who are likely to benefit from the services will pay for it
 
In addition, council also adopted the following:
 
Regional safety and rescue fund
Through consultation on the Annual Plan 2019/20, Council asked the community to provide feedback on how Regional safety and rescue services should be funded by local government in the Bay of Plenty. At present, charitable organisations apply separately to the various councils across the region. Through deliberations, Council directed staff to work with key stakeholders, in particular local councils and charitable safety and rescue service providers e.g. Surf Life Saving New Zealand. The intention is to create funding efficiencies and move towards a centralised funding approach for regional safety and rescue services via the next Annual Plan or Long Term Plan process.
 
Climate change
Climate change is one of the region’s biggest strategic issues. This was confirmed by the community through consultation on the Annual Plan where we asked what we should be focusing our efforts on to address the effects of climate change.   Through consideration of all submissions, it was the community’s view that Regional Council should be carefully considering the impacts of climate change when Council makes any decisions. Council also confirmed an additional $200,000 for the 2019/20 budget to support work around responding to climate change. The use of this funding will be guided by the content of Regional Council’s Climate Change Action Plan that is currently being finalised.
 
Rangitāiki Spillway
Council considered and approved additional capital funding of $4.34 million for the Rangitāiki Floodway project. This is a multi-stage project designed to take pressure off the flood-prone Rangitāiki River by diverting some of its flow. Increasing the capacity of the floodway reduces flood levels in the Rangitāiki River from upstream of Edgecumbe to the river mouth, which in turn reduces pressure on Rangitāiki River stopbanks during large flood events.
 
A number of community funding requests were approved by council based on their alignment with Council’s community outcomes which could be accommodated through existing budgets in 2019/20.
 
The general rates increase in 2019/20 is 2.8%, which is at the same level as forecast more than 12 months ago in the Long Term Plan 2018-2028. In addition, there are also increases to some targeted rates. The average total increase in rates is 8.4%, which is higher than the 5.3% increase that was forecast a year ago in our Long Term Plan. The actual increase for any given ratepayer depends on their property land value, and where it is located.