Todd Niall is the senior Auckland business reporter for Stuff.

OPINION: The impasse over the overhaul of Auckland’s waterborne public transport services appears to have been lifted, with the announcement of a $100million deal to build public vessels.

This is a deal originally due more than five years ago, but the cost and complexity of Auckland’s ferry commuter market has taken just as long to unravel.

Simply put, part of the new deal moves ferry rides to a train-like model.

* Auckland ferries will be publicly owned in a $100million overhaul of transport services
* Government commits $27m for electric ferries in Auckland
* ‘Electricity is the future’: Kiwi boat builders ride the wave as first battery-powered ferry service nears

Auckland Transport is committed to owning the ships, as well as the trains, and will hire private operators to operate them.

While there’s an upfront cost to buying ships — $80 million for five new electric hybrids — AT says it’s cheaper in the long run than paying private companies to own them.

A further $15 million will be spent to purchase and upgrade four aging diesel vessels from Fullers360, and two largely government-funded all-electric ferries will join the fleet.

The first and juiciest routes to settle were negotiated with existing operator Fullers360, rather than going through an open tender.

Part of the complex equation is that one of these five routes is the busiest, the Devonport trans-port hop, which Fullers360 operated as a purely commercial business outside of Auckland’s public transport network.

Auckland's first high-speed plug-in hybrid electric ferry is coming soon.

Fullers Group/supplied

Auckland’s first high-speed plug-in hybrid electric ferry is coming soon.

Getting Fullers360 to agree to relinquish full control of this route, allowing it to be controlled by AT, was only part of the bargaining in the combined deal.

The other route that Fullers360 retains control over is the largest service in the country, to Waiheke Island, as Devonport was previously – exempt from AT control via 2013 legislation.

A single olive branch has been extended to Waiheke residents angry at having to pay Fullers360 fares, who can now buy AT’s adult monthly pass, saving $58 a month.

Any further good news for Waiheke Islanders will likely have to wait until Transport Minister Michael Wood completes the process of removing the statutory exemption at the end of this year, when further negotiations will be needed to continue the transition of these services to that they are an integral part of the public transport network.


Michael Eaglen, co-founder of EV Maritime, designs electric ferries to travel on Auckland’s suburban roads (video posted June 2021).

It’s unclear where the deal leaves Auckland-based firm EV Maritime’s plan to build carbon-fiber-hulled electric commuter ferries.

Just 11 weeks earlier, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods stood alongside Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and announced $27 million in funding to bring the first two into service. ferries built locally by EV Maritime in 2024.

It seemed like the start of something for East Tāmaki, which – together with WEBBco of Wellington, which this year commissioned its own similar vessel – is at the forefront of the global market.

However, in the big ferry reveal, the five new ships that will follow EV Maritime’s initial pair will be different in design, larger, and built elsewhere.

The first of the hybrids – electrically powered with a backup diesel generator – will be built in Whanganui, and the next four will be put out to tender.

Woods’ office said the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), which funds 75% of the cost of the EV Maritime electric ferries, was unaware of the new deal and the choice Of the boat.

In a statement, he said the electrification of fleets is a good thing and that the EV Maritime project “is about showing leadership and sending a clear signal to the market that there will be a demand for electric ferries across the country. ‘coming”.

The rest of Auckland’s ferry routes will be put out to tender next year, and the place for a locally-built electric ferry may not be known until after that.