Editorial: Bus debate is getting somewhere

By Doug Laing

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The good thing about the latest debate on the lack of a suitable bus terminal or depot for coachlines in Napier is that, with angst having grown season by season over the past three years, city fathers, or mothers as they may be, are getting a feel for what the public may want.

Of particular benefit is that a range of potential sites is being discussed, although the reality is that behind the scenes the Napier City Council has not been sitting on its hands, and has possibly already looked at them all.

It is anxious to find a resolution but, like a bus trip, it takes time, which no one had when the key player Intercity opted out of the Napier Travel Centre site off Munroe St in mid-2010.

Therein lies the first hint of difficulty, in that Intercity got out for a reason, namely a six-figure annual lease payable to government agency Land Information New Zealand, effectively a treaty-settlement land-banking equation.

Nothing wrong with that as such, at least not in terms of treaty-settlement. The value of potential articles of settlement must be maintained, lest we all otherwise fork out from another source to pay the bill.

In its own way, it gave us all warning that, when it comes to cost, issues of government-agented public and freight transport operations between our towns and cities, as opposed to within them, maintaining a service for community or regional good is not really a consideration any more (refer Napier-Gisborne railway and TranzRail).

Particularly problematic is that, under the Transport Act, bus companies can effectively pick up or set down passengers wherever they like, within the same rules that all other motorists face.

Consequently, the council faces a problem of what to do if it cannot get bus operator buy-in to establish a terminal, where buses can park, passengers can throng, and where there is room for the parking of those seeing them off or picking them up.

The council is, therefore, likely to be looking at situations where land is available to rid Napier of a problem which is serious at peak times, many of which have been over the Christmas and New Year period, when buses angle for space on the western side of Dalton St, between Dickens St and Station St.

It is somewhat bizarre that this is a bigger problem than when there were many more buses, but those were the days when the companies took care of their own concerns.

The New Zealand Railways Road Services buses driving up the Parade and straight into their terminal in Herschell St, the Hawke's Bay Motor Co entering a giant bus shed from Station St and exiting through what is now the Dickens St shopping precinct gateway to Civic Court, and the Newmans Coachlines station on a site enveloped by the Countdown Foodmarket when it was built over 20 years ago.

Think places where the council already has land access and the options are not many, given that, to be practical, room for at least eight buses is needed.

Think, also, proximity to the city hub, although there may be some validity to any argument that a bus terminal does not need to be on the CBD doorstep, given the numbers, anecdotally assessed, that are dropped off or picked up by vans or cars.

It does not need thinking outside the square. Come to think of it, around The Square ain't a bad idea - Clive and Memorial squares, to be precise.

Napier's marketing as a tourism destination is not being helped by the time this debate is taking. It could issue itself a parking ticket.

The public will eagerly await the day when Mayor Barbara Arnott is able to announce to the constituency: the bus stops here.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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