Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has extended the hours of operation of the Hibbard Ferry.
The permanent hours of operation, approved at the August council meeting, will now be 6am-9.50am and 2pm-6.50pm on weekdays.
The extra one hour and 15 minutes of operation will be funded from council's Ferry Reserve and will be reconsidered at the time of the next report on ferry operations.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann put forward the recommendation following some confusion over the wording of a resolution from the May 2021 council meeting regarding the extension of operating hours.
"The words from the May meeting were to conduct a six week trial to extend the hours but the debate on the night was about the permanent extension of the hours and I was alarmed when I found out that the trial was being conducted," Cr Intemann said.
"I understand that the extended hours will be halted on August 6 if we don't correct this."
Mayor Peta Pinson raised concerns about the trial and noted that council should wait until the trial has been completed before making any further decisions.
"We haven't completed a trial, so we don't have the data yet and what it shows us," she said.
"Maybe we should extend the trial, get the data and then look at it before bringing it back to council."
Cr Pinson put forward an amendment to defer the item until September and extend the trial by one week to allow for more accurate data to be collected, however the amendment was lost.
Council's director of infrastructure Dan Bylsma confirmed that the six week trial of extended operational hours has been funded by the Ferry Reserve.
"It is likely that our operational budget is fully allocated and therefore any additional expenses would need to be taken from one of our reserve accounts," he said.
Residents have since raised concerns regarding communication surrounding the trial and said the data won't be accurate due to residents not knowing about the extended hours.
Council's CEO Dr Clare Allen said the current data from the trial is showing there is very little usage of the extended hours.
Cr Pinson reiterated that council should wait until the trial is finalised.
"Finally we get to the point of a trial which is coming to an end and now you're moving a motion that says we won't look at the data," she said.
Cr Intemann said the numbers from the trial won't be accurate.
"The trial was flawed and staff have advised they will continue to monitor the numbers on the ferry," she said.
"We have received information from the community about using the ferry at school pick up times and by people who start work early, so we do have some data."
Council also noted in the recommendation that the report put to council on May 19, 2021, indicated the cost to extend the hours by one hour and 15 minutes on weekdays will be an additional $22,400.
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