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Liftango launches on-demand Pīkau service for under-served Maori communities

The latest on demand bus trial in New Zealand is set to help Maori communities access key services

Liftango has announced it has launched a new community-led on demand service connecting Maori communities to essential services in rural Northland, New Zealand.

The pilot project, undergone by Liftango and Ngātiwai iwi, aims to address transport disadvantages in the region by giving Maori communities greater access to safe and reliable transport through an on demand bus service.

The pilot service will connect Whangaruru to Whangārei on a 71-kilometre route with no other public transport services.

The on demand bus is co-designed, led and owned by iwi, with the service made possible by funding from the Hoe ki angitū-Waka Kotahi Innovation Fund.

Liftango says the community-led program facilitates important access to healthcare, education, employment, socialisation and cultural connections.

Liftango has worked in close collaboration with Ngātiwai Trust Board at every stage of the project, as well as partners Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Authority and Ritchies, to solve the transport challenges at hand in a way that’s best for the community.

Following face-to-face workshops and drop-in sessions with more than 80 members of the local community, Liftango’s new mobilities team designed service parameters that would prioritise connecting the most important facilities to the community at the most convenient times.

Members of the community are able to book trips in advance to and from Whangārei using the Liftango-built Pīkau service app.

Local designers and translators have been employed as part of the service launch, and the app and website are being translated into Te Reo Māori as part of this.

Alongside cost and efficiency metrics, Liftango is also collecting data about trip purpose, mode shift and social connection to allow a greater understanding of how the service is benefiting the community.

“My time in Northlands working with community members on the co-design of Pīkau only reinforced how vital transport is for creating better health, wellbeing and social outcomes,” Liftango project lead for Pīkau Ainsley Hughes says.

“All too often we see industry conversations about transport focusing on cost savings and efficiency metrics, ignoring so many of the critical social benefits a service like Pīkau brings to the community. The willingness and enthusiasm of our project partners to support Pīkau is an excellent step forward in refocusing this narrative on equity.”

Speaking on behalf of Waka Kotahi at the opening of Powhiri at Mokau Marae, Northland Pou Arahi Hemi Clendon says it’s great to bring the project to the local community.

“There is importance and significance to being there for the relationship and the project. To the whole team, ‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi erangi he toa takitini’,” Clendon says.

Liftango CEO Kevin Orr says it’s the company’s vision to unlock all the good that comes from shared transport, including this latest project.

“Working with the local Maori community and our service partners to launch a pilot that truly reflects the needs and values of this community has been a pleasure,” Orr says.

“We look forward to seeing the benefits this service brings and supporting this beautiful region further in the future.”

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