SuperGold free travel not threatened

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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George Groombridge of Masterton with his SuperGold Card at Masterton railway. PHOTO/FILE
George Groombridge of Masterton with his SuperGold Card at Masterton railway. PHOTO/FILE

Free off-peak travel for Wairarapa SuperGold Card holders is not under threat, according to Greater Wellington Regional Council who say there will be sufficient government funding for the scheme in the future.

From July 1 government funding of transport under the SuperGold card scheme will change from an individual fare reimbursement to a capped bulk funding model of $28 million nationwide each year.

For the Wellington Region this results in funding of $6.8 million for the 2016/17 year compared with $6.4 million last year, and up to $7.2 million in 2020 with inflation adjustments.

GWRC general manager of public transport Wayne Hastie said SuperGold Card holders would still be able to use off-peak public transport free of charge when Transdev starts as the new rail operator in July.

"Our understanding is that no changes are proposed to the eligibility criteria of the scheme," he said.

"We've been assured that there will be sufficient Government funding for the scheme in the future."

SuperGold Card users have been warned they will have to buy a smart card in some New Zealand cities to continue using their travel privileges, however Mr Hastie said a decision on whether a "smart card" will be required has not yet been made in the Wellington region.

Deputy Leader of New Zealand First Ron Mark was concerned that the capped government subsidy over the next five years would not cover the growing number of New Zealanders over 65 who are eligible for free off-peak travel.

"We have something like 29,000 Baby Boomers coming on board a year. Every one of them, having paid taxes all their lives, fully expects to get their SuperGold card entitlements. Putting a cap on funding for transport is the National Government interfering with a privilege that senior citizens were given in recognition of having paid taxes all their lives, and the valuable contribution they have made to the community.

"We can't let them get away with it. We need people to stand up. They need to go and knock on Alastair Scott's door for a start, give him a bit of a tongue-lashing, and tell him that this is unacceptable."

The SuperGold Card scheme was an initiative of New Zealand First and was adopted during the term of a coalition government 2007.

In the 2014/15 financial year, 27,225 trips were made on the Wairarapa Rail Line by SuperGold card holders.

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