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Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Fullers wants clarity on ferrying visitors to Waiheke Island

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Fullers360 is seeking clarity on whether it can ferry day trippers to Waiheke Island under the new alert level 3 rules that apply from 11.59pm tonight.

A spokeswoman for the ferry operator said it is working with Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi to understand what the new three-step approach means for public transport operators.

Under the level 3 rules currently in place, Fullers is only running ferries for essential travel only, meaning Aucklanders cannot make the 35-minute journey from downtown Auckland to the popular island.

“We’ll be operating as usual under alert level 3 guidance unless we hear any differently or the specific transport operator advises otherwise,” the spokeswoman said.

This comes as some islanders are pushing for a localised border on the grounds Waiheke has never had a case of Covid-19, and locals fear the easing of alert levels could see thousands of Aucklanders flock there while regional boundaries are still in place.

Waiheke Local Board chairwoman Cath Handley said the board had written to the Government to formally request a border be put in place, similar to that at the city’s Northland and Waikato boundaries.

She said there were major concerns about what a case would do to the island, which has one supermarket and limited medical services.

The Fullers spokeswoman said for now the company encourage people to follow alert level 3 guidelines where ferry travel remains available for essential travel as outlined under the alert level 3 public transport guidance.

“Our ferry timetables remain unchanged and we will continue to provide ferry services with our reduced alert level 3 timetable in place,” she said.

Whatever happens with ferry services to the island, the popular Waiheke Walking Festival from November 5 to November 21 is not going ahead this year.

Festival Manager Vicki Angland said despite working tirelessly to navigate the restrictions to operate within, yesterday’s announcement means the earliest Auckland could be back into level 2 will be the end of October – “and that’s not guaranteed”.

Waiheke Island Tourism Inc chairwoman Christina Hyde recently said the island will be a key player in the Auckland region’s economic recovery from lockdown.

She was commenting on a 2021 visitor satisfaction survey which found 81 per cent of visitors were New Zealanders, one in five had visited the island more than 10 times and it is a romantic hotspot for couples.

Auckland Transport said it is waiting for the updated Health Order to be finalised/confirmed before clarifying what travel can be taken on public transport.

AT has sent out a message on its app to say people can now use public transport to attend permitted gatherings or to visit family if they have extended their bubble.

Auckland Council is also working through the new, less prescriptive rules under level 3 to look at easing restrictions at parks. Many public toilets are currently closed as are all playgrounds, pump tracks and skate parks.

Regional parks have remained open for people who live locally for a walk.

“Our operational teams are putting a plan together right now. We’ll have a summary out as soon as we can,” a council spokeswoman said.

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