Demand will dictate the continuity of a new once a week bus service to be trialled between Kaiwaka and Whangārei, with a heavily-discounted return fare of $10.

The Northland Regional Council has contracted Wellsford-based Leabourn Passenger Service to run the trial from August 1 until a decision is made whether or not to continue long term based on commuter numbers.

It's the first of three rural services NRC is looking to trial in Whangārei and is appealing for public support to make them viable.


Whangarei Heads and Hikurangi are the other routes being looked into.

The new service on a 35-seater bus will leave Kaiwaka Hall at 9am on Thursdays via Mangawhai, Mangawhai Heads, Langs Beach, Waipu, and Ruakaka and arrive into Whangārei at 10.50am.

The bus will return to Kaiwaka at 3pm, arriving at 4.50pm.

NRC group manager customer service and community resilience, Tony Phipps, said Leabourn suggested the current bus service from Kaiwaka to Mangawhai be extended to Whangārei.

"We were originally going to do Waipu Cove and Bream Bay into Whangārei but the bus contractor who's got significant experience in the local area suggested that we trial the additional bit.

"Normally such trials are run for a year but we'll see how successful this one is and because it's only a trial, we are open to trying some different things."

Phipps said a targeted public transport rate and subsidy from the New Zealand Transport Agency enabled NRC to offer reasonable fares across all its routes.

Last October, NRC introduced the gold coin fare of $2 adults and $1 children on CityLink routes in Whangārei and Phipps said passenger numbers over the past six months went up between 4000 and 5000 compared with the same period last year.


About 30,000 people use the public bus service in Whangarei every month.

"We're also having a look at different ways of providing a bus service rather than the standard, contracted bus service such as in Canterbury where there's a Community Vehicle Trust which runs services funded by councils.

"Usually public transport is the size of vans rather than buses. Councils may buy the vehicles and trusts run them. We looked at running a car-sized service in Hikurangi but in the end, a community group didn't want to proceed."

Phipps said a combination of cheap fares and higher petrol prices attracted more commuters to public bus services in Northland.

Leabourn general manager Lyndon Leabourn said the feedback to the impending service from locals has been exceptionally positive.

In the past, his company operated a private service from Kaiwaka to Whangārei but Leabourn said the return fare of $35 was deemed expensive.