The plan to fix the Waiheke ferry fury will start with immediate action around wharf management and prioritising elderly and frail commuters.

Irate commuters have been left out in the cold after winter sailings to Waiheke Island were reduced, resulting in tension, abuse and even violence.

Amid rising concerns an urgent meeting was called between Fullers360 chief executive Mike Horne, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye and the Waiheke Local Board chairwoman, Cath Handley, to address issues surrounding the service.

"Waiheke is a world-class destination but is receiving a substandard service," Kaye said after the meeting yesterday.

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"Handley and I have had a constructive meeting with Fullers where they acknowledged some issues relating to their services.

"The tensions raised by commuters are real and will continue unless we can get real movement on these issues to guarantee greater oversight and continuity of services."

Commuters spoken to by the Herald said tensions had been rising since Fullers switched from half-hourly sailings in summer, to its winter schedule with hourly sailings at off-peak times and reducing spaces on the boats.

Passengers desperate not to be left on the dock are reportedly lashing out at crew, including pushing and shoving Fullers workers, and shouting abuse if the ferry is full.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye talks with the chairwoman of the Waiheke Local Board, Cath Handley. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye talks with the chairwoman of the Waiheke Local Board, Cath Handley. Photo / Dean Purcell

In a statement, Horne said the service understands changes to timetables can be frustrating but any form of abuse towards staff is unacceptable.

"We urge our commuters to please treat our crew with respect. We are all committed to providing the best service possible," he said.

Horne added the meeting with Kaye and Handley was "constructive" and focused on tackling the long-term issues together.

Commuters who spoke to the Herald last night at the ferry terminal said they were fed up with the service.

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"The number of sailings that are either delayed or cancelled is unacceptable, there are no other options for us to get to and from the island, it's not like we can walk on water," said Anne, who didn't want her last name published.

"Tourism numbers have increased throughout the whole year so to have disruption for tourists and many of the related businesses on the island I think is really tough," another woman said.

"I think the owners of the Fullers service are skimping on costs a little bit and not providing a proper service that commuters and other people are paying for," one man said.

Meanwhile, Kaye said there are several other issues to resolve in the long term, including integrated ticketing and Fullers' exempt service status.

Fullers has a special status which exempts its ferry services from Auckland Transport oversight and competitive tendering rules.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the exemption to the public transport operating model (PTOM) was introduced by former Transport Minister Steven Joyce in 2011.

"It is unclear why. Auckland Transport was concerned at the time that they would have no oversight of the ferry service," Twyford said.

"I have made no secret of my concern that PTOM is a race to the bottom for public transport services and could be driving down workers' conditions and wages.

"Last week I announced a full review of PTOM and part of this work will look at the appropriateness of the current exemptions to the model."

Kaye said the exemption either needs to be removed, which would affect Fullers commercially, or an alternative needs to be found.

However, any alternative measure would have to ensure greater guarantees around the quality of what are essential services, she said.

"This is not like other forms of public transport when people are potentially left on the wharf, they don't have the ability to get an Uber or phone a friend," Kaye said.

"The impact on their lives is very significant so we need to understand when it comes to a ferry service that doesn't have competition, there aren't other options for people."

Meanwhile, Handley said with meetings such as the one held yesterday, it's often not what changes on the day but the changes in the future.

"We haven't got any specific answers right now other than they'll work with us collaboratively here on in," she said.

Commuters at the ferry terminal last night said this

"The number of sailings that are either delayed or cancelled is unacceptable, there are no other options for us to get to and from the island, it's not like we can walk on water," Anne said.

"Tourism numbers have increased throughout the whole year so to have disruption for tourists and many of the related businesses on the island I think is really tough," one woman said.

"I think the owners of the Fullers service are skimping on costs a little bit and not providing a proper service that commuters and other people are paying for," one man said.