Up to 140,000 Supergold cardholders in Auckland will no longer be able to travel free on public transport in seven weeks, unless they sign-up to the city's electronic travel card.
Auckland Transport is about to launch a campaign to try to issue the AT HOP travel cards to the over-65s, following a change in government policy.
The change takes effect from 1 July and will also make it harder for Supergold cardholders visiting Auckland, to get their free trips.
Until now, Supergolders have been able to travel free after 9am, simply by displaying their card and being issued a paper ticket.
However the government last December announced that Supergold cardholders would have to get an AT HOP travel card, with their entitlement embedded in it and electronically swipe it on each trip.
With just seven weeks to go, Auckland Transport is about to mobilise a campaign to issue personalised AT HOP cards.
There are already 45,000 Auckland Supergold cardholders using the AT HOP cards, but 140,000 are not.
Auckland Transport believes it can reach those needing to switch over.
"We're confident that we can handle that volume of customers through our service centres, and also because we're offering different channels or different options for people to be able to do that, we believe that we are able to confidently handle that," said Peter Paton, Auckland Transport's Customer Experience general manager.
In addition to AT's 10 service centres, there will be five temporary locations and a mobile unit, with cardholders also able to register via the internet or by post.
The stricter regime from 1 July, will also mean Supergold cardholders visiting Auckland from other parts of the country will have to buy a $10 AT HOP card before they can travel free.
In addition to the $10 cost of the card, users must also buy $5 of credit before the card can be activated.
The Auckland Council's tourism agency is trying to promote domestic visits, but doesn't believe the change will dent the city's appeal.
"I appreciate that it will inconvenience a small number of people, and if they are regulars the investment in a one-off $10 card will probably pay for itself," said Jason Hill, ATEED's tourism general manager.
"If you take Waiheke for example, a $36 return fare on the ferry becomes free if you have the $10 AT HOP card," he said.
Auckland is the only city affected from 1 July. No other centre has a suitable regionwide electronic travel card except Otago-Southland which already requires Supergold cardholders to have one.
The tighter regime is part of government efforts to more closely monitor the free travel concession, the cost of which has grown significantly since its introduction.
Auckland has the most generous scheme, also extending through the evening peak period, which ratepayers will fund to the tune of $3 million a year from July.
The city and the government had split the cost of the additional benefit 50/50, but from July ratepayers will have to pick up the bill on their own.