It’s fitting that much of the handover from Timaru’s community transport advisor Tony Henderson to newcomer Isabelle Bromham took place on a mammoth road trip around the small towns of Canterbury.

The pair, based in Environment Canterbury’s Timaru office, spent part of the last few months visiting 15 Cantabrian towns (from Kaikōura to Kurow) as part of Isabelle’s induction as the new Timaru community transport advisor – ahead of Tony’s retirement from Environment Canterbury.

The many hours of road time, to visit each of the region’s rural Community Vehicle Trusts provided a great opportunity for Isabelle to learn the intricacies of how each trust operates from town to town, as well as the different public transport needs in each area.

After 14 years at Environment Canterbury, Tony has a vast amount of knowledge to hand over when it comes to public transport outside of Greater Christchurch and he’s a familiar face around the region.

“When explaining the community transport officer role, I often say that we have a super team working on public transport for Christchurch but – for the rest of the region – it’s one ‘superman’! Of course, this will now be a superwoman with Isabelle on-board,” Tony explains.

Community Vehicle Trust

Tony has been the key driver behind the establishment of the Community Vehicle Trusts, which are unique to Canterbury and offer much-needed affordable transport options for rural-based people, including to travel to hospital appointments.

“There were just three trusts operating when I joined ECan,” says Tony, “But now we have 15 up-and-running, supported by close to 300 volunteer drivers. I’ve just put together some calculations which show that we’ve had more than 20,000 passengers, transported people 293,000 km and provided volunteer hours worth more than $207,000.”

If you’d like to read more about the Trusts – check out this great article in the latest Latitude magazine.

Stepping into the role

Isabelle is excited, if a little apprehensive, about stepping into Tony’s shoes.

“Tony is so well-respected for his role in setting up such a valuable service for our rural residents – both in terms of both affordability and for people’s wellbeing. I’ll do the best job I can!”

Along with her role with the Community Vehicle Trusts and the Total Mobility scheme, a big part of Isabelle’s role will be the on-demand public transport project for Timaru, which could offer an on-demand, ride-share style service. Isabelle will be key in engaging with community groups, businesses and the Timaru public to help ensure any new service is practical, relevant and appealing.

Tony intends to spend more time on his many community-based activities, including Rotary’s free firewood kindling project that he initiated for people with mobility issues in Timaru.

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