November 29, 2023

New Waiheke Island ferry service promises cheaper fares

Currently, Waiheke Island is serviced by one passenger ferry company - Fullers360 - which has faced numerous complaints about cancellations and price hikes.

People who travel between Auckland and Waiheke Island are celebrating promised savings, with a new ferry operator making waves in the Hauraki Gulf.

From next month, Island Direct will operate a 50 seat passenger ferry to Waiheke Island, with some tickets going for nearly half the price of the long-running Fullers ferries.

The new operator said passengers could book seats at no added cost.

As well as the tourists and Aucklanders who flock to Waiheke for day or weekend trips, a significant number of people catch the ferry between the island and the city most days – a commute that is not cheap.

Currently, the island is serviced by one passenger ferry company – Fullers360 – which has faced numerous complaints about cancellations and price hikes.

Earlier in the year, kayakers took to the water with placards to protest a “crippling” 19 percent fare increase.

Island Direct co-director David Todd said the new service hoped to offer a more reliable service for travellers, with up to 18 trips a day.

“We see ourselves offering a complimentary service,” he told Nine to Noon.

“It’s small, we’re a 50-seater ferry, but offering a good family-friendly service and hopefully delivering on time, so allowing some certainty for locals and tourists alike.”

Todd said the return fare would be $50 and they were talking to Auckland Transport about using Hop Cards and Gold Cards for the service.

Other products, including multi-pass concessions, are currently under development.

“We clearly see there’s an ability to make money providing this service at a reasonable price.

“We’ll get support from the local community, from people with flights to catch, appointments in town, and this can give them certainty that they’re going to get there on time,” Todd said.

Auckland Council transport committee chairperson John Watson said more competition was needed on the ferry route.

“There’s been a lot of concern there, for some time now, with respect of fare charging and the reliability of the service.

“I think some competition is what’s required, to be honest not just on Waiheke, but right across Auckland when it comes to the ferry network,” Watson said.

The new operator would attract more passengers, he said.

“What’s clear to me is that there are good operators out there, keen to get into the market, that have largely been held off to this point.

“If we can get people in, operators that can offer an alternative, run a good service, people will come flocking.”

The Island Direct services expected to launch on 13 November.

Island Direct is a partnership between owners David and Tanya Todd, who have lived on Waiheke for 15 years, and long-time water taxi operators, the Bourke family.

Fullers360 welcomes the competition

“I’m extremely pleased that we’re having more operators out to Waiheke” – Mike Horne (3 min 53 sec)

Fullers360 chief executive Mike Horne told Checkpoint he was pleased there would be more operators servicing Waiheke Island.

Fullers360 charges $95 for a pre-booked return trip to Waiheke Island, while Island Direct will only charge $50 for such a trip – but Horne said Fullers360 offered a range of products.

“A regular price to and from Waiheke [on Fullers360] is $27.50 and that’s at peak times and it’s half that price in off-peak times.

“The reserve ferry is quite different, it’s for tourism and it’s for trade tourism so it’s pre-booked and it’s only two departures which are at absolute peak times. It’s one vessel and it takes about 140 people on board, so it’s complementary to a huge range of other products and activities that we offer to and from Waiheke.”

Fullers did not plan on reviewing its pricing in terms of the new operator, he said.

There were thousands of people all trying to get to Waiheke Island during peak times and it would be useful to have more than one operator then, he said.

On a busy day Fullers360 would carry about 20,000 people to and from Waiheke Island and the company had positive feedback from visitors, commuters and tourists, he said.

But he said Fullers360 was stretched to meet such heavy demand which was why it would be good to have more operators.


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