THANKS to support from the Community Trust of Southland, the Bluff bus service trial is being extended at least until the end of the year.
Awarua Developments Ltd (ADL) project lead Tyron Strongman said the Community Trust of Southland (CTOS) had agreed to provide funding in the form of a guarantee against loss for up to $50,000 until June 30 next year.
This meant CTOS would cover any shortfall the service may have each month up to the value of $50,000, which would take the trial through to at least until the end of the year, he said.
“It is fantastic news for us.
“This is the first time I have allowed myself to celebrate. We have had little victories, but the CTOS funding has given us a big boost in confidence.”
ADL, set up late last year by a group of Bluff and Invercargill residents to oversee projects designed to rejuvenate the port town, is trialling a daily bus service between Invercargill and Bluff.
Mr Strongman said they still had several hurdles to overcome before a strong business case could be presented to the Invercargill City Council and New Zealand Transport Agency to secure funding to run the service long term.
A joint venture had been set up with Real Journeys’ ferry shuttle on a trial basis for the winter season, which finished at the end of October.
“That contract is quite important to us.
“We would like to continue the trial through the summer because that is where the revenue is to be made.”
Another challenge was to find ways to control expenses, which had increased as a result of petrol prices increasing 15% since the service started, Mr Strongman said.
Ferry passenger numbers were expected to drop during winter, but Bluff residents using the bus service had remained steady and new passengers were continuing to take advantage of the service, he said.
“We are pretty happy [with the success of the trial so far]. We are really confident and getting good feedback.
“We now want to put ourselves in the box seat for the summer season,” he said.
Among the plans were to work with iSITE to promote the service and increase exposure of the service online, Mr Strongman said.