A BUS service between Bluff and Invercargill is now up and running, but support is needed both from the community and agencies to secure the service long-term.
Awarua Developments Ltd (ADL) has obtained sufficient funding to run a three-month trial of the service thanks to the Awarua runanga which had provided $20,000 towards the project.
The trial began on Monday.
ADL was set up late last year by a group of Bluff and Invercargill residents, including representatives from the Awarua runanga, to oversee projects designed to rejuvenate the port town, including the proposed Bluff Oyster World.
ADL project lead Tyron Strongman said a bus service was needed to support the projects planned for the town.
Prior to this service being set up, the only bus services operating between the two centres were a ferry shuttle run by Real Journeys and a school bus run.
The bus service involved five return trips between Bluff and Invercargill during the week and four return trips on weekends and public holidays linked in with Intercity bus services.
Mr Strongman said ADL had secured sufficient funding to operate the bus service for a year, conditional on long-term support being secured from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Invercargill City Council (ICC).
Intercity bus operators and tourism operators had indicated their willingness to come on board on the basis long-term funding could be guaranteed, he said.
“If we can prove the local market is there, that should be enough for the ICC to come to the party and then others will fall in place.
“Once funding is confirmed, then we can forge partnerships to boost patronage and revenue.”
Mr Strongman said the bus service had created two new jobs in Bluff, a bus driver and an administrator.
The service also provided social benefits, including improving options for school children wanting to attend Invercargill schools, enabling the elderly who did not have access to private transport to attend medical appointments in the city and connecting tourists and tourism operators, he said.
ADL had put in a submission to the ICC’s Regional Public Transport Plan 2018-2021 seeking support for the bus service, and representatives from ADL intended to speak to their submission at an ICC community services meeting on February 26.