The SuperGold Card off peak public transport scheme

The SuperGold Card is available to all eligible New Zealanders aged 65 years or over, and those under 65 who receive the New Zealand Superannuation or the Veterans Pension.

The SuperGold Card free off peak public transport scheme enables SuperGold cardholders to travel for free on scheduled urban public transport between 9am and 3:00pm and after 6:30pm Monday to Friday, and all day on Saturday and Sunday.

As at May 2015 the scheme offers more than 662,000 SuperGold cardholders increased mobility and greater access to their community.

The number of SuperGold cardholders is increasing on average by around 29,000 net a year. 

Sustainability of the scheme

Since its introduction in October 2008 the $18 million annual cost of funding the scheme has grown, due to the yearly increase in SuperGold cardholders, growing use of public transport, and rising fares. In 2016/17 the annual cost of the Scheme is estimated to be $28.03 million.

The review of SuperGold Card’s operating mechanisms

The Government asked the Ministry of Transport to report on options for cost efficient sustainable funding of the scheme. The review will not affect SuperGold cardholders’ entitlement to the concession or the eligibility of current services receiving the SuperGold transport concession.

The specific focus areas of the review were limited to:

  • reviewing whether the temporary moratorium on new transport services entering the concession scheme could be lifted
  • if the moratorium was lifted, what criteria would be used to determine entry into the scheme
  • considering a national policy for the use of smartcards under the SuperGold card travel concession scheme
  • considering reimbursement calculation methods including average fare calculations.

The Government has now announced changes to the scheme resulting from the review.

Changes to the scheme

The review recommended changing the way that regional councils are funded for trips - shifting from a demand-driven reimbursement approach to capped bulk funding (with annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustments) - and lifting the moratorium on new services entering the scheme from 1 September 2015, with criteria being applied for new services.

Funding for Waiheke Island ferries and other niche services will also be capped (with annual CPI adjustments), and SuperGold cardholders will be required to use smartcards as these become available.

Bulk funding for regional councils

At present, the Government reimburses regional councils for SuperGold trips on a per-trip basis. The Government has decided to shift to a bulk funding approach from 2016/17, where the level of funding will be agreed between regional councils and the NZ Transport Agency.

This change will bring SuperGold Card funding into line with the way other public transport funding is allocated, and provide a ceiling on the cost of the scheme to Government. As any cost overruns would need to be funded by councils, it would encourage cost savings and efficiencies. Funding for the scheme will be capped at $28.129 million for the next five years, with annual CPI adjustments to account for inflation.

Moratorium on new services

To limit the impact of increasing costs, a moratorium on new services entering the scheme was in place from 2010. This moratorium was lifted on 1 September 2015 which improved the range of services available to SuperGold cardholders, particularly in rural and provincial areas. 
New services need to meet criteria to be allowed into the scheme which includes:

  • being contracted to regional council
  • not being identified as an exempt service
  • being identified within a Regional Public Transport Plan

Funding for the Waiheke Island ferry and other niche services

A legacy issue means that some niche services now classified as ‘exempt services’ are included in the scheme. This has created an anomaly where these services receive reimbursements for carrying SuperGold cardholders where they would not normally be eligible. 

Funding for these services will be capped (with annual CPI adjustments to account for inflation) as follows:

Waiheke Island ferry $1,600,000
Sealink ferry to Waiheke Island $286,000
Fullers ferry to Devonport $436,000
Wellington Airport Flyer $733,000
Wellington Cable Car $83,000

Smartcards

SuperGold cardholders will be required to use smartcards as smartcard technology, such as the AT HOP card in Auckland, become available.

Regional councils will decide when smartcards will be mandatory for SuperGold cardholders wanting to access free off-peak public transport in their region. This will be once regional councils are satisfied they have adopted enduring smartcard technology.

Regional councils will inform SuperGold cardholders when they need to obtain the relevant regional smartcard.

This will provide operators, regional councils and Government with more accurate data about the number and length of trips taken, assisting future public transport planning.

SuperGold cardholders will be required to purchase their own cards. While this will impose a cost, it is small compared to the ongoing benefits users gain from accessing the scheme.