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Community Transport
February 26, 2024

Liftango launches on-demand Pīkau service to support under-served Maori communities

Working with Ngātiwai iwi, Liftango has launched a community-led, on-demand service that connects Maori communities to essential services in rural New Zealand.

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Working closely with Ngātiwai iwi, Liftango has launched a new community-led, on-demand service that connects Maori communities to essential services in rural Northland, New Zealand. 

This pilot project aims to address transport disadvantages by providing under-served Maori communities with greater access to safe and reliable modes of transport through the deployment of an on-demand bus service. It connects Whangaruru with Whangārei, a 71 kilometre route with no other public transport services. 

With the help of Liftango’s transport technology and team of mobility strategists, the on-demand bus service is co-designed, led and owned by iwi and made possible as a result of funding from Hoe ki angitū-Waka Kotahi Innovation Fund. It is delivered by members of the community for the community, resulting in a locally-focused, community-led transport program which 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 over 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. And every element of the service design has been thoughtfully considered for users, including the vehicle type: operating partner, Ritchies, provide vehicles that include box trailers for transporting groceries and larger items across the route. 

Community and impact are at the heart of this pilot project: the Ngātiwai Trust Board chose Pīkau as the service name, meaning ‘to carry on the back; piggyback’ and the service is free to use for the community throughout the pilot duration. 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, modeshift and social connection to allow a greater understanding of how the service is benefiting the community. Ainsley Hughes, Liftango’s Project Lead for Pīkau, said: “My time in Northlands working with community members on the co-design of Pīkau only reinforced how vital transport is for creating better health, well-being and social outcomes. 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”.

Northland Pou Arahi Hemi Clendon spoke on behalf of Waka Kotahi at the opening Powhiri at Mokau Marae, “It's great to be bringing the mana of our organisation to the front and meeting face to face with Ngātiwai from the beginning of the project. There is importance and significance to being there for the relationship and the project. And to the whole team, Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi erangi he toa takitini.”

Simon Mitchell, CEO of the Ngātiwai Trust Board said, “We are excited that there has been an overwhelmingly positive reception of our trial bus services within the community. The steady increase in passenger numbers reflects the growing need and appreciation for accessible transportation options within our kāinga. This growth trend, particularly following the holiday season, underscores the essential role Pīkau plays in meeting the diverse needs of our community.”

Kevin Orr, CEO of Liftango, commented, “It’s our vision to unlock all the good that comes from shared transport, and no project sums this up better than Pīkau. 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. We look forward to seeing the benefits this service brings and supporting this beautiful region further in the future.”

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