Waikato Regional Council voted on Tuesday to introduce an accessibility concession, providing approved people with free travel on bus services.

The decision by the strategy and policy committee — applauded by an audience of people representing the disability community — will go to the full meeting of council on December 12 for final approval.

Waikato will be the first region in New Zealand to provide a 100 per cent accessibility concession, which will come into effect from mid-2019 when the new bus ticketing system is implemented.

The cost of the concession will be co-funded by the NZ Transport Agency and ratepayers, and it is estimated it will cost the council up to $75,000 a year.

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During the meeting councillors also endorsed an eligibility criteria for the concession, which will be available to any person of any age if it can be demonstrated they have a physical, intellectual, psychological, sensory or neurological impairment that prevents them from being legally able to drive a private motor vehicle or is such that they will be unable to drive once of a legal driving age.

It will be available to those that have a temporary or permanent impairment that results in a transport disability. A temporary impairment means a person will be unable to drive for a period of six months or more but is expected to recover from the impairment.

Also this week, the regional council agreed to extend the Orbiter service to include the Hamilton Gardens on weekends this summer.

Both clockwise and anticlockwise Orbiter buses will travel into the bus stop in Gate One of the gardens around every 20 minutes on weekends and public holidays through to April 7 2019.

During this period, Orbiter services will also run later on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
"We've timed the last bus for foodies attending Gourmet in the Gardens, leaving in the half hour after its 8pm finish time," council public operations manager. Andrew Wilson said.

"We encourage people to use this service which takes the hassle out of finding a carpark during busy days," Hamilton Gardens business development manager Tamsin Webb said.