Some sad news late yesterday with Explore ferries announcing that they will be stopping their service to Waiheke, once again leaving Fullers with a monopoly on the route.

 A Waiheke Island ferry service has been axed after two years because it was not getting enough passengers.

Explore Group announced on Tuesday it would cease its ferry to Auckland’s Waiheke Island after a thorough review of the service.

The decision was being rued by Waiheke islanders, who had enjoyed the competition against Fullers Ferries, main operators on the route.

Infrastructure problems that prevented a comfortable experience for passengers – especially throughout winter months – was one of a number of contributing factors, Explore Managing director William Goodfellow said.

The decision was not easy to make, he said, because of the support the company received from passengers and the “considerable investment” made.

“We’ve thrown everything we could at the Waiheke service and we greatly appreciate the support of Waiheke and Auckland travellers, however the initial strong support from commuters was not sustained and ultimately the numbers did not stack up,” he said.

“We entered into the service with the specific aim of providing ferry commuters with a superior level of service and on-board travel experience. We achieved this and as a result we believe the ferry services to Waiheke are in better shape, both in terms of the standard on offer and the frequency of service, than it was two years ago.”

I think it needs to be remembered that the services to Waiheke are operated fully commercially and will continue to be well into the future as they were ensrined in leglislation (which I believe AT objected to).

Explore’s service had some things were working against it from day one such as not being eligible for any SuperGold funding until recently, not being able to accept HOP, issues with access to wharves, timetable issues for connections to Waiheke buses etc.

Most indications had pointed to Fullers lifting their game since the introduction of Explore and they’re even having new boats built to provide better service. It will be interesting to see if any improvements slip away once Fullers are plying the waters by themselves again.

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  1. Most importantly Fullers actually more or less doubled service frequency. Going from boats every hour (roughly – the trip takes 35 mins + loading so it’s a little more complex) to boats every half hour (roughly). That made a huge difference, although they originally did so mimicking Explore’s timetable.

    That service has been discontinued now for the winter period, it’ll be interesting to see if they resume the additional boats next summer.

    Great shame to see Explore go, they appeared in the market shortly after Fullers started leaving commuters on the wharves due to equipment failures and were very welcome competition.

  2. in other news Fullers announce that they will be putting up their Waiheke Fares by 10%… *joking* but will probably happen.

  3. How come only one company, Fullers, were provided the Gold card subsidy? Seems very anti-competitive by the government. Still, that whole Gold card thing distorts the market.

    1. I think I mean it in terms of the effect of a subsidy on a free market Harry. Should’ve left that last sentence off. Must’ve been tough for Explore not to have access to the same government funding.

      1. That’s crazy. Surely it’s eligible passengers the Gold Card is meant to subsidise, not the particular transport company they use.

  4. The one thing I don’t understand is why Fullers stops Waiheke to Devonport after 18:00. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the ferry was timed to arrive five minutes before the Devonport ferry but it’s timetabled to arrive five to ten minutes after. This effectively turns a thirty five minute journey into over an hour. Then just to put the boot in you have to pay for a ticket back to Devonport as you can’t transfer using the Waiheke ticket.

    1. Yes it is pretty bad that you can’t use your Waiheke ticket on the Devonport service. Coming back from Waiheke you should be able to jump on whichever ferry and if needs be then take the Devonport ferry to get back to Devonport.

  5. The Explore ferry has been used on the Gulf Harbour run occasionally, and what an improvement! At least 10m faster than the usual ferry, cruising at 25kts, and making the trip around 45m. Also a very modern and comfortable ferry. This is what is needed all the time to encourage people out of their cars for the Whangaparaoa to Auckland commute – fast, comfortable and reliable ferries.

    1. AT sets the timetable and the ferry companies run their vessels to that timetable. If you run a vessel faster than necessary, you increase the chances of something breaking, use a lot more fuel and you end up spending more time than necessary waiting around at jetties. D7 is a modern boat BUT at only 6 metres wide and only just 20 metres long … and three stories high if you include the roof deck ,I would not like the ride if the Northeasters come back! Even through wake in the Ferry Basin, she looks a bit like a Metronome!

  6. Fullers have obstructive since Explore started.
    I mean changing their timetable to mimic the competitor’s is taking the proverbial! This is a case for an anti trust regulator. If the USA, the lad of free enterprise, thinks it is imperative to not just encourage competition but to actually legislate for it, then surely NZ needs to do the same.
    Please see if you can sign this petition:

    1. Obstructive? It’s business! Fullers saw an opportunity to grab the ‘floating commuters’ who owned monthly passes with both companies by running a ferry departure five minutes earlier than the Explorer service. How’s that unfair? If Explore was so good, why didn’t those commuters stay on their boats? … anyway … I was talking to one of their ex employees yesterday (who is now working for Fullers) and they have evidently sold their fleet so any attempt to bring them back is a waste of time.

  7. I’ve been to Waiheke a few times in the last half year (after not going over for more than a decade) and it was with Explore each time. I think we went to Rangitoto with them recently too.

    Sorry to see them go. It does sound like the deck was stacked against them from early on.

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