IT’S taken months of dedicated and often frustrating negotiations, but residents and visitors to Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest can finally buy an Opal Card, the only way to pay now on public transport.
The saga began late last year when Hawks Nest Newsagent Hugo Elstermann’s application to sell Opal Cards and top up facilities was rejected.
Tea Gardens Post Office owner, Russell Turner also started a petition, gathering 200 signatures, mostly from pensioners worried they wouldn’t be able to travel on public transport.
Enter Port Stephen MP Kate Washington into the fray.
“We asked questions in Parliament, and wrote a series of letters to the NSW Transport Minister, saying this is silly, regional areas do exist and we use public transport,” Ms Washington told News Of The Area.
“The funny thing was when people tried to find the nearest Opal retailer it came up Nelson Bay,” she said.
“It has taken the Department 289 days to realise that they should have given him [Hugo Elstermann) an OPAL machine in the first place.”
“Whether it is local residents wanting to top up before a trip to Sydney, or tourists wanting to top up before returning home, there is demand for this service in the area and I’m relieved that the Department has finally realised that,” said the Port Stephens MP.
In its first week of operation, the Opal Card proved very popular with locals and visitors, with dozens sold at both the Tea Gardens Post Office and Hawks Nest Newsagency.
Mr Turner from the Tea Gardens Post Office said, “The Machine arrived on Monday the 15 August and was up and running within 10 minutes.”
By Margie TIERNEY