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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Could community organisations be a key to better transport?
Reporter John Cosgrove continues with the third in his series of stories looking at possible solutions to the lack of suitable transport services in the Clutha district.

One option for alleviating transportation concerns is community vehicle trusts.

They provide a means of transport for residents who may be unable to transport themselves from their homes to nearby towns or cities for medical appointments or shopping visits.

The trusts work by relying on the goodwill of the local community recruiting volunteers to drive the vehicles and administer the trusts. Trips are kept affordable for passengers, and destinations are specifically geared to the needs of that community.

Following on from the recent public meeting about transportation issues, Clutha District Council community development adviser Jean Proctor said the council was putting together a group of interested parties to investigate the feasibility of creating community vehicle trusts, similar to those operating in Canterbury.

She believed the idea could have strong benefits for the Clutha community. ‘‘There will definitely be another public meeting some time in the new year to discuss transportation once we have more information about the trusts,’’ Mrs Proctor said.

‘‘This will help us formulate the submissions to the ORC about their Regional Public Transport Plan over the next few weeks.’’

Otago Regional Council (ORC) transport manager Garry Maloney said any specific involvement for the ORC in delivery of future public transport services in the Clutha region would best be established via the regional public transport plan.

‘‘Next year we will be consulting on a new regional public transport plan as part of the ORC’s long-term plan for 2021-31 and we would encourage interested Clutha residents to share their thoughts as part of that process.

‘‘Until recently we have been able to offer subsidised transport in Balclutha for those eligible under the Total Mobility Scheme. While this is on hold due to a current lack of operators, we hope to be able to offer it again in the future.’’

On the question of taxi services in Balclutha, the Clutha Leader has been contacted by several businessmen who have said they are currently independently reviewing the feasibility of starting another taxi service in the town.

Business owner Stan Leishman said taxis were an essential service for Balclutha, and he was one of several looking at ways to help solve local transportation problems.

Another option is community buses.

Worried about the demise of their ability to shop or visit medical facilities, the Clinton Senior Citizens Club took the bull by the horns 12 years ago and bought their own bus, with the aid of the community.

Now their operating business model is lauded by financial experts around the district.

Their driver, Reg Smith, said, ‘‘the main reason we bought our own bus was because our members wanted some way of getting to club outings instead of always car pooling or relying on the generosity of others.

‘‘It’s worked out very well for the club as now medical practitioners in Balclutha work hard to accommodate members appointments, timing them with our bus timetable.

‘‘We are very appreciative of the work they do. Each month we alternate between Balclutha and Gore to give members a better variety of shops to visit and when the school holidays start we can easily fill up with local families looking for a day out,’’ Mr Smith said.

The club had looked at replacing the ageing bus with a newer 12-seater van which could be driven by more drivers than just Mr Smith.

However, members said they liked the more comfortable bus seats and the ease of accessibility of getting into and out of proper bus seats compared with narrower van aisles.

Another idea mooted by Mr Smith and club president David Mackie was based on the many licensing trusts in the region repurposing their customer ride-home vans.

‘‘They are sitting there all day, so why not use one or two as a dedicated local bus service several times a day or a week?’’ Mr Mackie said.