A new bus trial for Wakefield is set to get underway next week, thanks to the hard yards put in by a community trust and concerned members of the community.
The group, Nelson Tasman Community Trust, got a funding boost recently.
Thanks to a community connect grant for $12,500 from the Office for Seniors, the community trust now has the means to begin researching the transport needs for older people in the Tasman district, and trial a community bus service between Wakefield and Nelson will be funded as part of this research.
The Nelson Tasman Community Trust was formed in October 2018 and came about to meet a need that was severely lacking – a bus service between Wakefield and Nelson.
In 2017 a petition for a Wakefield bus service yielded little results, after a Tasman District Council commissioned study reported that a service between Wakefield and Richmond would not be used enough to be viable.
Frustrated over the lack of results, several members of the community started to get organised
“In essence, the formation of our trust was in response to that,” says Kate Malcolm, chair of the Nelson Tasman Community Trust.
Kate explained that a lot of other people came on board who had different concerns, particularly about isolation in towns like Wakefield.
“The whole lifestyle in areas like Wakefield is based around the use of a car, and if for some reason you can no longer drive, you’re completely stranded.”
One particular group that Kate says is particularly isolated due to a lack of transport options is older people.
“We are in real need of a service that can keep older people in these areas mobile,” says Kate.
Nathalie Lacaze Campell, treasurer for the trust, says that the project follows long term calls for increased public transport services in rural areas.
“The grant will be used to research the needs of elderly people in Mapua, Motueka, Tapawera, and with a trial bus service soon to start in Wakefield, the result of the research will be used towards a long term plan to offer more transport options.”
Kate says the Wakefield bus trial will be open to all, but the timetable will be based around the needs of older people.
“It’s early stages, at this point we’re looking at doing one return trip in a 9 passenger van that has been loaned to us.”
The van is owned by the Wakefield Rest Home.
A year ago when the new owner, Hilary Bird, had just taken over, councillor Dean McNamara approached her on behalf of the trust to see if the van could be used by the community when it wasn’t needed by the resthome residents.
It turned out she’d had the same idea herself.
In order to make the trial viable, the service will need to be half filled every trip.
The service is based around similar models that have been used in Canterbury, and Kate says that it’s the first concrete step in the process of developing an efficient bus service.
“We’re still early on, but we’re hoping it will gain momentum.”