Community Board Gets On Board

Great news for the Thames minibus proposal –the Community Board approved funding at its meeting on Monday of up to $10,000 for preparation of a Business Plan for the proposal, and up to a further $39,000 for the operating costs of the 6 month bus trial.

Secondly Richardson’s Real Estate – Thames have very generously pledged $10,000 towards the operational costs of the trial (including the cost of  “decals” for advertising on the bus).  Richardson’s Thames have also offered to promote the minibus service on More FM on their Community Notice Board and their Facebook page.  Another potential sponsor will be considering their involvement next week.

So far three bus operators have expressed interest in providing the service.

The next step will be for the Community Board to prepare the Business Plan.  This will likely involve having 2 workshops run under New Zealand Transport Authority guidelines to scope the “problem” and likely benefits.  But with most of the technical work already completed, $10,000 set aside for preparation of the Business Plan for the trial seems excessive.  A further Business Plan will be required in 2017/2018 to support the application for central government funding, so any excess funds could be used for that 2nd Plan.  The  $39,000 set aside the trial itself also looks to be ample now that Richardsons Real Estate have pledged their support.

The trial should be able to proceed later in 2017 if the Council can navigate its way through the bureaucratic morass in a timely fashion.

The Community Board was unanimous in its support for the minibus proposal.  This was helped by the fact I was able to provide an interim count of the numbers who have signed both the online and paper petition – over 1100 so far with over 900 of those being from the Thames Community Board area.  In the last 2 days several hundred more signatures have been added so the final count is likely to exceed 1300 of which more than 1000 will be locals.  Not bad for a low-key 3 week effort from a population in Thames of around 7,000.  In addition Board Members were presented with several pages of comments very supportive comments made by locals on both the online petition site and on Facebook.  These were almost universally favourable.

The case was also greatly assisted by members of the community who spoke passionately in favour of the bus proposal at the public forum at the beginning of the meeting – they included Peter Tong from Richardson’s Real Estate, Jacquie Mitchell from the Thames Hospital, Robyn Sinclair from Thames Age Concern, and Bill Barclay who spoke on behalf of several socially isolated Tararu residents.

The electric minibus idea is still being pursued – a new commercially available vehicle seems to be about a year away, but Toyota Thames are investigating whether a suitable second-hand electric minibus could be imported from Japan.

All in all a great community effort.