Q and A with Karen Williams.
Q AND A JULY
It is 12 months this month since Translink was incorporated into the island passenger ferry services. Controversial at the time, some predicted doom and gloom. The Translink connection has literally changed the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. Mayor Karen Williams reflects on the introduction of the Translink service, one year on.
Q1: How difficult was it to get Translink to incorporate the island passenger ferry service into their operations?
A1: Negotiations with Translink began under the previous Council but were unable to be finalised when the parties could not agree to terms. I was pleased that we were able to reach agreement after several more months of negotiations that resulted in the integration of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands to the Translink network a year ago.
Q2: Was it a State Government decision or a Translink decision that was required?
A2: The agreement for the trial period was signed with Translink, which is an arm of the Government.
Q3: Why did you seek so passionately the Translink connection for the islands?
A3: Islanders had been calling for years to be connected with the Translink go card network. There were many benefits to be had if we could come to terms with the Government, not the least being cheaper fares to and from the islands. Other advantages were that islanders could cash in on the other benefits available to go card users – such as free travel after a certain number of trips, pensioner concessions, free inter-island travel. We were convinced that joining the network would bring the island communities closer together, that it would strengthen the social fabric of the SMBIs and potentially result in an increase in property prices.
Q4: Do you think the average island ratepayer understands what was involved and required by Council at the time?
A4: Possibly not. As I said, it was my pleasure to have been involved in sealing this deal and bringing the advantages that came with it to the SMBI.
Q5: Did it surprise you that just prior to its introduction, there was so much island uncertainty and opposition to the Translink initiative?
A5: I think there was an element of mistrust as this had been talked about for quite some time without anything happening. There tended to be a negative attitude with some people but we always knew the majority of islanders would support – and benefit from – the initiative.
Q6: The rate levy was a hurdle to overcome. You nullified that by adjusting island rates. Did that opposition disappoint you?
A6: I said many times that this would never have happened without a contribution from Council. That was made very clear to us right from the start of our negotiations. We sought to strike the very best deal we could and to get value for money for the people’s investment. I said from the time we announced there would need to be a local contribution that I was determined to minimise the impact on islanders. We did that by reducing the accelerated infrastructure component of island rates to deliver what was effectively a cost neutral benefit.
Q7: Was the key to the success of your plan, the free inter-island travel?
A7: We negotiated hard to get the best deal. The free inter-island travel was a game-breaker for us, and it has proven to be a great success with people voting with their feet and visiting other islands quite regularly. You can see by the volume of inter-island traffic that this has been a winner with the locals.
Q8: One year later, are you proud of what has been achieved with the introduction of Translink to the island travel service?
A8: The results are there for everyone to see. People are used to the service and the benefits that will continue to flow from it. Almost 1.2 million passenger journeys suggest we got it right.
Q9: The service is still in trial. Do you believe the 2.5 year trial will be deemed a success and will become permanent?
A9: Based on the first year statistics the integration of the SMBI has been a resounding success. I can’t see how the trial will be seen as anything other than a rousing success. The business is there, the patronage is there, the island populations are growing and so should the number using the service. Council will need to renegotiate and agree with TransLink for the continuation.