Catlins bus advocate to continue campaign

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Next stop . . . Don Sinclair, of Tahakopa, in the Catlins, is renew­ing his calls for a community bus to counteract rural isolation in the district. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

RICHARD.DAVISON @alliedpress.co.nz

A Catlins pensioner says a council funding refusal for a new transport project will not stop him in his tracks.
During the Clutha District Council’s Our Place Catlins community plan consultation last summer, Tahakopa resident Don Sinclair proposed a new community bus for the Catlins, to help address rural isolation.
Mr Sinclair said he had hoped to secure seed funding from the council, but learned last week the bus had been excluded from a list of potential projects arising from the consultation, as it was ‘‘not a core council service’’.
Despite the setback, he said he was not giving up on the idea just yet.
‘‘We’ve seen a pattern developing where otherwise able people who would like to continue to live in their rural homes, lose their driver’s licence and quickly find it’s impossible to keep body and soul together due to the isolation and distances out here.
‘‘But with a community bus heading to the shops once a week, suddenly things become practical again.’’
Once a means of transport was established, other options such as hospital visits for medical appointments could be considered, he said.
‘‘We’ve seen the gradual disappearance of older friends and acquaintances from the district, as health issues and driving restrictions affected them.
‘‘It would be nice to reverse that.’’
The concept had been successful elsewhere in South Otago, he said.
‘‘We’ve seen other areas like Clinton do it successfully . . . why can’t we?’’
Members of the public had clubbed together to buy a Clinton bus for about $15,000 in 2009.
Lottery funding helped offset annual running costs.
Mr Sinclair said harnessing local support would be critical to getting the project off the ground.
‘‘I still believe council should help out as they want people moving into the district, not away.
‘‘But in the meantime, maybe we need to sit down with local businesspeople and community groups, and see if something can be done for the Catlins community.
‘‘Everywhere else in the world sees the importance of public transport for its communities. We should too.’’