16 Mar 2010

Govt review of senior transport card 'shambles'

5:40 pm on 16 March 2010

The Labour Party says the Government's handling of a review of SuperGold Card transport subsidies has been a shambles.

The card is available to all New Zealanders over the age of 65, and those under that age on a pension.

Events over the past week have led to Prime Minister John Key assuring people that current entitlements on the discount card for senior citizens will not change.

The Government is looking at bringing down the transport costs of the SuperGold Card scheme which delivers some free travel on off-peak services.

In a news release last Thursday, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the eligibility of certain high-cost services, such as the Waiheke ferry in Auckland, would be considered.

On Friday, the minister said that did not mean services would be cut, but the subsidy level to operators may be reduced.

Mr Joyce says his initial meaning was lost in translation.

"The Government never had any intention to alter the actual availability of services for SuperGold Card recipients - but it was a bit imprecise last Thursday."

But Labour Party deputy leader Annette King disputes that, and claims Mr Joyce was told to back off.

"He was definitely going to review the look to cut it, and he particularly mentioned the Waiheke ferry. So I think the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing, and they ended up with a shambles."

Mr Key says the Government is simply looking at negotiating a better deal with transport operators and can guarantee SuperGold Card users will not lose out.

"The entitlements for those who want to use it aren't going to change, but the Government will go out there and try and negotiate a better deal with suppliers."