By Jack Biddle
A newly elected Mercury Bay Community Board (MBCB), which is still very much in the process of setting out new strategies and priorities for the future, may well be the ray of hope needed to finally put to bed or at least make some positive progress on the ongoing, and as yet unresolved, saga of obtaining Super Gold Card subsidy to be used on the Whitianga Ferry Service.
At their recent meeting held 8 February at the Thames Coromandel District council building in Whitianga, local Grey Power spokesperson, Margueritte Muellers, once again asked the same old questions for the fourth time on what progress had been made on this topic since her last appearance before the MBCB in late 2022. She no doubt expected the same old response as before, which has basically always been “don’t call us, we will call you”.
It’s obviously been pretty soul destroying and frustrating for Margueritte and others before her, after many years of campaigning on behalf of Grey Power. “There have been a lot of words spoken by past boards but little real action or traction has ever eventuated. The fact that we keep on attending these meetings and asking the same old questions year after year is surely testimony that the efforts made by the MBCB in the past have fallen well short of our expectations. We can accept our request being turned down if there were real valid reasons given or we can see the MBCB has exhausted all avenues, but sadly we don’t believe this has ever been the case”
The current board may however bring new hope for Grey Power, partly due to Marguerite’s presentation, the new MBCB has conceded they have work to do on the matter and has undertaken a pledge to investigate further and the subject has been added to the networking agenda, scheduled for this coming April’s meeting.
The Informer is led to believe, from our own investigations and in email discussion with Warren Maher, new elected member of the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) – that WRC is the keeper of the Government’s pot of gold when it comes to funding the super-gold scheme. It currently receives around $980K in bulk funding which is apportioned on the number of super-gold trips made per area. In the 2021/2022 year, Hamilton services accounted for about 85% of the funding, while Thames received around 1% of the total allocation ($7.3K). Mercury Bay, or Whitianga specifically, received zero funding for any specific subsidised transportation needs. In addition, some inquiry is proceeding as to what is involved in changing a service that is labelled as ‘tourist’ to a service that is classed as essential.
With all that has happened and is happening right now with Mother nature causing disadvantage to transport on the Coromandel and to Mercury Bay, this matter could become another bitter pill or an encouraging impetus. Trying to find out why the Coromandel Peninsula north of Thames has been left out completely when it comes to supporting some form of necessary community transport, whether it is by way of the Super Gold Card or not, may well be a good place to start asking the hard questions. It may be one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios and there will be many obstacles and hurdles to jump along the way. If the newly elected MBCB wants to make a difference, then the pressure is now on to come up with some meaningful answers to the questions that Grey Power has been asking for many years. Their promised
in-depth investigations along with some outside-the-square thinking,
hard nose approach combined with good leadership, may well bring many future benefits to more than just Super Gold Card holders in the region.
The MBCB has shown a commitment, so let’s now hope their actions speak louder than the words. It will be a matter of using their grey matter to help answer Grey Power’s questions. The Informer will keep a watching brief on the subject.