Tauranga residents ignoring the local council or objecting to proposed bus shelters being built outside their homes have contributed to a four-year delay in completion of a major public transport programme.
The wait for bus shelters comes despite Tauranga City Council agreeing last month to pump an additional $255,000 into its annual spend of $75,000 to take its target from 13 new shelters per year to 25 to 30.
A list of potential bus shelter locations across the city, prompted by requests from residents and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council was presented at the council's Projects, Services and Operations Committee meeting on Tuesday, updating councillors on the status of proposed bus shelters.
Of the 45 proposed bus shelters, 33 have already been agreed to by local residents and 16 were refused. Ōhauiti residents were among those to object to shelters.
I don't think it's good enough to have shelters on a list for months and months. That's not really a fair go.
Councillor Larry Baldock questioned why the council had to wait so long for people to respond.
"There are two letters [we send], when do we just go ahead [and build bus shelters]?"
Baldock referred to "elderly people ... standing in the rain" while waiting for residents to respond.
"How long does this have to go for?"
A list, or spreadsheet, is used to track the status of each shelter location, whether adjacent property owners have been contacted and whether they agree to the potential installation on the side of the road. If residents refuse, the matter is later discussed in a hearing where the merits for and against the location of a bus shelter is debated and decided upon.
As new requests are received, they are added to the list.
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General manager of infrastructure Nic Johansson told the meeting there had been talk of having a hearing in the near future. However, the council preferred to wait until there was data provided from the newly installed Bee Card ticketing system, which would give the council evidence to work from.
"If we hold hearings now, [we have] the argument of 'this is a good place for a bus stop' but what is the evidence of that? That leaves us exposed," Johansson said.
Director of transport Brendan Bisley said consulting with residents was important to prevent potential issues with a structure being placed in an area such as one which might block driveway visibility.
In May, Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber criticised the city council for taking so long to install bus shelters. His comments came after the presentation of a report revealing the Western Bay council had installed all of its shelters but the city council still had not yet installed 29 shelters after four years.
Baldock said in response to Webber, at the time, the city council had a "huge list of residents" it needed to consult with which was "a real pain".
Earlier this year, Sustainable Business Network regional manager Glen Crowther submitted 10 bus shelter locations in Ōtumoetai.
Crowther told the Bay of Plenty Times after Tuesday's meeting he agreed with Baldock's sentiment and was hugely supportive of having more shelters to better enable more public transport use.
"Surely in this day and age, we can fast-track it?
"People talk about the RMA [Resource Management Act] process being slow. I think this is another process that is inexplicably slow," Crowther said.
"If people are generally not responding, surely there comes the point that we need to carry on. I don't think it's good enough to have shelters on a list for months and months. That's not really a fair go."
In response to queries this week, Bisley said six of Crowther's suggestions had not yet been included on the list, which was accurate as of July 27, and the council was investigating these suggestions further. The other four locations had already been included.
When asked why the funding for building bus shelters had increased, Bisley said this would allow the council to include "slimline shelters" for narrow footpaths.
These were cheaper to purchase and install "so we can get more of this installed in the same budget, hence the reason for the range".
"The increased demand for shelters is encouraging for the city as it shows more people wanting to use the bus services. Council is creating a process to make sure we have a robust way to assess locations for new bus shelters to ensure they are being prioritised where we have the highest passenger demand."