We had a request to call for information from passengers who happened to have travelled on the 4:00pm boat from town on 23 December and got on the bus at Matiatia. If you had any concerns about the bus passenger loading, could you contact this email address or call 0800 566 366, that would be most appreciated.
Starflyte on the Friday 6:30pm forgot to pull into Devonport. He realised it mid-channel so a sharp 180-degree turn followed. His cheery announcement at the start of the journey that we'd be on Waiheke in 35mins was a little optimistic. It took an hour.
The Waiheke Marketplace newspaper ran a piece with commuter experiences on the ferries, sadly it's not online. A slightly different article, but based on the same information appeared in the East & Bays Courier.
It inspired me to fire off the following letter to the editor:
The fluffy piece of salad day journalism by Nicola Murphy and Lyndal Jefferies "Work's a 180-min journey" requires necessary balance. For Waiheke commuters, the journey to and back from work in the city involves one of the most expensive commuter fares in the world. At $4,000 a year, what do you actually get? Boats that rarely arrive at the advertised time causing missed bus and train connections. Cancellations and breakdowns occuring like clockwork, often mid-channel and which require a return and transfer (but, mercifully, a $10 compensation voucher). Those breakdowns are euphemistically referred to by Fullers as "unplanned maintenance" and they come on top of annual boat surveys that seem to take longer every year.
You may think that the Waiheke commute is a damn sight better thing than sitting in a gridlocked motorway every morning, but your 'reverse commuter', Mr Schippers, enjoying the "easy parking" in Devonport, should have mentioned he can actually park for free, a privilege not enjoyed by islanders, who are unique in the Auckland public transport system of not having a free park & ride facility that North Shore busway commuters take for granted. Perhaps this is because the Waiheke Fullers route is actually not a public transport service but communal private transport delivered by a monopoly company.
It's my impression that Fullers actually doesn't like commuters. It prefers the $35 return tourist fares because revenue per passenger is so much juicier. Tourists don't turn up in Winter so boats can be taken out of service at random, and bugger the resulting cramped conditions for the captive daily customer. In Summer, boat charters and private cruises for corporate Christmas parties yield so much more profit it pays to cram commuters onto the smaller vessels, sardine-style.
The vaunted aspects of the boat commute - the community-style interactions between passengers and the opportunity to actually make the time work for you - are a little overdone. There is, for example, no free wi-fi on board, something that is increasingly common on public transport overseas and even on inner city Auckland buses, trains and even Sea Link to Half Moon Bay.
As long as Waiheke is not integrated into the Auckland public transport system (we haven't heard whether Hop will come to Fullers, let alone at $14.50 for a day pass valid for travel across Greater Auckland, a fare touted for travelling a similar distance on other Auckland public transport modes) Fullers - and Sea Link - will continue to abuse their monopoly position and slowly strangle life on Waiheke for all but the well-heeled. The island's gentrification and unaffordability will continue and the only beneficiary is Fullers' bottom line.
UPDATE: The letter (slightly edited) was published, good on ya, George.
UPDATE: The original article has been retracted by the Marketplace after one of the interviewees complained he wasn't actually interviewed for the piece.