Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones made no secret of his outrage when Air NZ ceased flying to Kaitaia, and yesterday he reacted in similar vein to InterCity's post-Covid timetable, which excludes Kaitaia.
The timetable shows Kerikeri as the company's northernmost destination, and the service to Kaitaia and beyond as 'temporarily suspended.'
That, Mr Jones said yesterday, was an awful situation.
"We've had shabby treatment at the hands of Air NZ, and I'm not going to take more of the same from InterCity," he said.
Mr Jones had no doubt that the company had suffered significant financial losses as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, but last month's government budget had acknowledged the difficulties the transport sector as a whole was facing. He also expected it to recognise that "connectivity" for the Far North with the rest of the country was crucially important, however. And as far as he was concerned, any financial assistance from the government for InterCity would be tagged to the company agreeing to link Kaitaia with the rest of New Zealand.
The absence of overseas tourists would be problematic for the company, he said. Passenger numbers had obviously declined dramatically, and would remain lower than they had been prior to the lockdown for some time, but public transport had an important role to play in the Covid-19 recovery. Once again, however, a key component in the national transport system seemed to have decided that it wasn't worth keeping Kaitaia "in the script."
"When he was an MP Hone Harawira used to hitchhike," Jones added, "but I don't believe that's a sustainable option for the rest of us. And I don't know how easy Hone would find getting a ride these days."
InterCity announced late last month that its buses would be back on the road on Thursday last week, including in Northland, albeit not firing on all six cylinders.
CEO John Thorburn said that before the Covid-19 lockdown began on March 26 it had provided more than 100 daily services connecting the length and breadth of the country, New Zealanders accounting for 85 per cent of passengers.
The company would not be able to continue operating loss-making services over the long term, but he hoped talks with the government would lead to "sustained operations" and re-expansion of the network.
"We've taken the decision to restart, even though it will be at a loss, while we continue to discuss support from the government," he said.
Thorburn thanked Mayor John Carter for his assistance in efforts to secure government support to ensure Northlanders had a safe, reliable transport option.
Daily services resume in Northland today, from Kerikeri south, on ;last week, although physical distancing demands meant buses would run at less than 50 per cent capacity, thus running at a loss. As a result, not all stops on the network would be available.
The Northland Age does not know if easing the Covid-19 alert level from 2 to 1, now expected to take effect next week - Cabinet is scheduled to review the alert level on Monday, and in the past has given 48 hours' notice of a change - would see more services restored, and attempts to contact InterCity yesterday were unsuccessful.