The Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, has shocked a Hawks Nest business owner by admitting that the Government does not have enough OPAL Card retail machines to supply regional areas.
Mr Hugo Elstermann, the owner of the Hawks Nest Newsagency, turned to local MP Kate Washington to help discover why local businesses were being denied the opportunity to sell OPAL cards.
As a businessman in a popular tourist location, Mr Elstermann is well aware of the demand for OPAL cards in the local area.
However when Ms Washington sought clarification on why his business could not sell OPAL Cards the Minister responded and said, “I am advised Transport for NSW is limited by the number of available OPAL devices and cannot expand the scope of the OPAL retail network.”
Mr Constance said, “I understand that there are Opal retailers at locations linked to Hawks Nest, via public transport, where customers may wish to top up their Opal cards.”
Hugo Elstermann from Hawks Nest Newsagency said, “I have been trying for over 4 months to get OPAL to allow me to sell their product.”
“No other business would put up such a fight to stop you selling their product,” he said.
“I get dozens of enquiries for OPAL Card top ups and requests to buy new OPAL cards. I’d love to be able to sell them but OPAL isn’t interested,” Mr Elstermann said.
“I’m at a loss to understand why this was allowed to happen. We serve as agents for NSW Fisheries and NSW National Parks by issuing permits and explaining rules and regulations.”
Mr Elstermann said, “An aging population embracing a new transport ticketless system would only benefit by having an agent in town to explain the new system.”
Myall Coast News spoke to Kate Washington MP for Port Stephens and she said, “It is absurd that the NSW Government rolls out a new ticketing system without ordering enough machines to meet demand.”
“Whilst OPAL may not be operating in Hawks Nest, people who live in Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens move in and out of areas where OPAL is required on public transport.”
“Public transport is difficult to access already in regional areas like Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest. If you add a layer of uncertainty or difficulty, I fear that people will choose not to go out,” she said.
“Where they don’t have a choice, if they are going to medical appointments, it adds an unwelcome layer of stress.”
“The most common transport question I get in my office is from people trying to access OPAL cards. Not everyone can do it online,” said Ms Washington.
“When you type Hawks Nest into the OPAL website it tells you the nearest place to buy an OPAL card is Nelson Bay, hardly a convenient location,” she said.