Wellington Scoop

Celebrating the new all-diesel era

by Lindsay Shelton
Barbara Donaldson ought to be ashamed of her suggestion that Wellington people should be celebrating the Regional Council’s decision to fill city streets with diesel buses for the next eight months.

“We wanted to spend on the future, not the past,” she said on TV3 on Tuesday night, as she tried to defend the indefensible decision to end all trolley bus services eight months before any new buses arrive.

“We’re going for a lower emissions future,” she claimed, ignoring the fact that for the next eight months the city streets will be anything but a lower emissions zone – with nothing but diesel buses, including unwanted ones rejected by Auckland.

After only one day of the new regime imposed by the Regional Council (and not opposed by the city council) the diesel fumes are already uncomfortably noticeable in the narrow spaces of Willis Street and Manners Street.

Councillor Donaldson (who is chair of the regional transport committee) and a majority of her Regional Councillor colleagues don’t live in the central city, of course, so they won’t have any problems in avoiding the fumes. But the minority who do live here should be embarrassed by their decision every time they’re walking on the Golden Mile alongside the 100 per cent diesel fleet.

It’s obvious to everyone except Cr Donaldson and her transport committee that the trolley buses should have been kept in service till the new bus contracts start in July. That way we would have been able to avoid the all-diesel menace.

Even new Transport Minister Phil Twyford can see this. He refused to intervene, but he told the NZ Herald:

“It would have been nice, I think, if the council had had a plan to … have a seamless transition from the trolleys to electric buses, but that’s not the case. It’s a shame…”

The dismal effects of an all-diesel bus fleet – noise as well as pollution – are not only being felt in the CBD. Here’s the experience of an airline pilot, working shifts, who lives next to the terminus of route 11, with the bus stop across the road from his house:

In the past, there have been times when the noise and fumes from diesel buses loudly idling at the stop have caused significant impact but … the predominant use of trolley buses in the main ameliorated the total effect… Since the abandonment of the trolley buses, the effect of 18 hours a day of diesel buses directly in front of my house is significant. The net effect (resonant vibrations across the house, with peaks of 85dB at the front door) is to cause real disruption to our lives and our ability to rest… This is separate from the measurable rise in exhaust fumes, the toxic loading that carries and the effect upon the health of the young children who live nearby.

But he should no doubt be looking to the future, as Cr Donaldson has told us. It’s just that Cr Donaldson’s future aims to exclude the next eight months of noise and pollution from the all-diesel bus fleet that the Regional Council has created for us.


  1. Ian Apperley, 2. November 2017, 11:08

    Interesting. You have to wonder if the Regional Council has hired some of the WCC’s Communications Staff. Same tactics.

  2. Trish E, 2. November 2017, 13:00

    Eight months until the first hybrids arrive, years if not decades until we have anything equivalent to 60 zero emission trolley buses. Perhaps the Regional Council can put a clock on their website that indicates how many years, weeks and days until we have a fleet equivalent in emissions to what has just been ditched.

  3. Brevet Specific, 2. November 2017, 15:50

    All the extra air pollution I’m breathing while cycle commuting is not good for my health. The mature thing would have been not to take away the trolley buses without a ready, more economical & sustainable replacement. [via twitter]

  4. Brian Dawson, 2. November 2017, 15:51

    Yep. And NZ Bus has been promising the Wrightspeed hybrids for a long time. [via twitter]

  5. Rumpole, 2. November 2017, 21:02

    Wrightspeed buses? Where are they? Not even a prototype has been produced. The Regional Council’s management of Wellington’s bus transport is disgraceful. The Chairman should take full responsibility for this mess and resign immediately.

  6. Andrew, 2. November 2017, 21:16

    The Chairman is obviously waiting for the Perpetual Motion Bus. An electric motor drives a generator, that charges batteries. Said batteries power the electric motor that drives a generator…. Hang on?!?!

  7. Citizen Joe, 3. November 2017, 9:08

    The fault lies with pusillanimous Lester, Wellington’s Mayor. The overhead wires are a Wellington City asset that are being dismantled at the cost of $11 million. If Lester had any proverbials, he’d have said “No. The wires stay and the trolleys stay until you have proven your battery buses work as good as the trolleys.”

    In fact, by charging the batteries on the trolleys and charging from the overhead wires we could have had an even better system. Oh the guileless stupidity.

  8. MetLink, 3. November 2017, 9:41

    The interim replacements for the trolley buses range in age from 2009 to 2013. Three-quarters meet the Euro 5 standard (the highest standard in the world being Euro 6), while the balance meet the Euro 4 standard. Since November last year, NZ Bus has also brought down six buses from its Auckland operations to help provide extra services on high-demand routes (Karori and Wilton being two such examples). Four of these buses are 20-plus years old and meet only the Euro 3 standard; the other two are five years old.

  9. CC, 3. November 2017, 10:16

    Metlink – these are less polluting than what they are replacing? How?

  10. NigelTwo, 3. November 2017, 11:59

    I do suspect some smoke (sic) and mirrors here.

    From the NZTA website: “In addition, the standards use Arabic numerals (eg Euro 3 or Euro 5) to indicate they apply to light duty (less than 3.5 tonnes) vehicles and Roman numerals (eg Euro III or Euro V) to indicate they apply to heavy duty vehicles.”

    The standards are different. So one cannot compare a poodle car’s emissions with these buses based on a EuroX standard. And in light of the Volkswagen defeat strategy, what do these buses really emit?

  11. bikerider, 3. November 2017, 14:59

    While in other countries diesel vehicles are banned from cities, Wellington is getting more old stinking buses. We are getting a very bad deal and Twyford in parliament doesn’t care. Can’t do anything about it. No comment from NZ First
    Business as usual.

  12. Andrew, 3. November 2017, 15:55

    Citizen Joe, you are right, the WCC are lacking spine. JL should have resisted this move. Instead he is writing letters apologising for WCC councilors who have enough spine to question the GWRC.

    Damp handshake…

  13. Citizen Joe, 4. November 2017, 9:34

    So our electricity system was not up to scratch and its Chinese owners were reluctant to spend? As a result of this (“bull” as City Councillor Chris Calvi Freeman might mutter at a GWRC hearing) our trolley bus substations and overhead wires were condemned on 1/11.

    Well today (4/11) surprise, surprise, it’s reported that Hongkong-owned Wellington Electricity have a plan to spend multiple millions of dollars upgrading Wellington’s electricity system and then to charge the costs back to us in higher electricity fees! And pusillanimous Lester has agreed! I wonder why Wellington Electricity left this announcement until after ex Manus Island refugee managers Broadspectrum started pulling down our trolley bus wires down on 1/11?

    Sounds like a stinky deal with GWRC so GWRC could continue with their mad neo-liberal bus contracts and increase their monopsonistic position in transport provision.

    Certainly our 100% electric, 68 year old, humble trolley bus system never stood a chance with these cynical corporates and incompetent councils in charge.

  14. Daryl Cockburn, 4. November 2017, 11:06

    Our Councils believe they make good decisions. History shows they usually don’t. Certainly not in my fields.
    The trolleys were killed partly on the basis of substation fix costs. Four days later we’re told they have to be fixed anyhow; for “resilience.”
    Time for a public inquiry with all information opened.

  15. Conn G, 4. November 2017, 16:36

    Yes, a Royal Commission of Enquiry into the Wellington Trolleybus destruction needs to be implemented ASAP.

  16. Citizen Joe, 4. November 2017, 18:32

    A Trolley Bus Public Inquiry? A great idea! The CEOs, officers, Mayor and councillors who made this despicable decision to murder our trolley bus system must be put in the dock and asked some hard questions. But what sort of Inquiry and is it likely?

    There’s a governmental inquiry which is initiated by a Minister and is answerable to that Minister. Would Transport Minister Phil Twyford do it? I doubt it, given he effectively gave the order to kill them off on 31st October and communicated his order down to his Labour apparatchiks at WCC and GWRC.

    Then there is a Public Inquiry or a Royal Commission which are appointed by and are answerable to the Governor General. So who knows the Governor General and is she remotely interested in Wellington buses?

  17. CC, 4. November 2017, 21:57

    Citizen Joe – she seems a bit of a Patsy so she may be Reddy to make a few appointments.

  18. Brent Efford, 5. November 2017, 12:54

    Much of the problem is political: the majority of regional councillors – including Cr Donaldson – represent satellite cities which have only ever known diesel buses in their local services. See http://www.gw.govt.nz/council-and-councillors/. They are generally conservatives with very little interest in the inconvenient truths of climate change and obsessed with prioritising ‘four lanes to the planes’ as the be-all-and-end-all of local transport. Additional factors: the habitual spin doctoring about technical issues which seems to be the main skill required of Council staff, and the squashing of the sustainable transport vision once espoused by GWRC transport management in order to ensure the Transmission Gully Motorway and other big-dollar roads get funded.

  19. Glen Smith, 8. November 2017, 15:53

    Quote from ‘Yes Minister’ explaining the City Councils approach to the destruction of our all-electric trolley wire system that they owned on our behalf.

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Then we follow the four-stage strategy.
    Bernard Woolley: What’s that?
    Sir Richard Wharton: In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
    Sir Richard Wharton: In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we *can* do.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.