Wellington Scoop

Rattle and vibration – noise problems in Seatoun since the demise of the trolleys

by Gilly Tompsett
Since the end of the trolley bus era and the introduction of a diesel fleet by Wellington’s regional council, getting quality sleep has become difficult and at times impossible for residents living near the Seatoun bus terminus, in the heart of the suburb. From 6am until midnight, the rattle and vibration of idling or departing diesel engine buses reverberates throughout homes.

After 35 years of flying passengers safely to their destinations, fatigue is an issue that Seatoun resident Herwin Bongers, a long-haul pilot, monitors closely. In the past, taking an afternoon rest to prepare for the duty ahead was easy. Not any more.

For Herwin the problem has become untenable.

“On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I felt unusually tired, and was forced to file an aviation safety report – the second one this year caused by the disruption,” he says.

“The issue of disruptive bus noise in our residential neighbourhood has been raised numerous times, but no material change has been enacted.”

“The situation will get worse once the new timetable starts in July, with buses departing every five minutes during peak times and every 10 minutes off-peak.”

Seatoun resident Jayshri Dayal says the disruption is affecting the health of her four youngchildren.

“The buses wake us up early in the morning” she says. “Because our bedrooms are at the front of the house, it impacts our sleep. Especially the ones that come through late at night around midnight that don’t turn off their engines. By the end of the week the children are exhausted.”

Kathleen Bulatovic’s three young children are also woken up in the middle of the night by the buses. But her main concern is the effect of carcinogenic diesel pollutants on her family, with no concrete plans by the regional council to introduce electric buses on the new No.2 route between Seatoun and Karori for at least a decade.

“We keep hearing claims of a 30 percent reduction in ‘emissions’, but that’s a false claim because it doesn’t include carbon emissions, which will increase total emissions by 15 percent a year” says Herwin.

“That’s totally unacceptable in 2018.”

ReVolt Wellington – a community organisation dedicated to bringing non-polluting electric buses back to the capital – will hold a meeting at the Seatoun Village Community Hall on Wednesday at 7:30pm with councillors in attendance. All citizens concerned by the noise and pollution are urged to attend.



  1. Richard, 10. June 2018, 9:47

    Why do bus drivers idle their buses for so long? At the bottom of Kent Terrace, there are also often buses parked that just idle for long periods of time. It always baffles me.

  2. Citizen Joe, 10. June 2018, 13:59

    Switching off the engine is apparently not a good idea for diesels. Best to keep them running. Its time to park some noisy, smelly diesels outside the houses of GWRC councillors so they hear and inhale what they have voted to inflict on the people of Wellington.

  3. Daryl Cockburn, 11. June 2018, 11:31

    From where can we get a dirty bus or two to park in high vis?

  4. tim, 11. June 2018, 12:58

    Bus drivers keep their engines going so that the heaters will work and thereby keep the driver and passengers embarking on their journey warm. Why should the drivers freeze in the middle of winter. Of course it’s the regional council’s fault for terminating the trolleys. Don’t blame the drivers, the public knew these changes were coming and stood by and did nothing

  5. Marion Leader, 11. June 2018, 13:20

    Richard, they want to keep warm.

  6. Gillybee, 11. June 2018, 21:48

    @Tim and Marion: you’re absolutely right – the grievance is with the GWRC, not the drivers. The fundamental issue is around the second rate equipment the drivers are being asked to operate.

    However, Tim you’re wrong to say the public knew of the changes and did nothing. There’s been a deliberate strategy of obfuscation by the GWRC comms department, that’s kept Wellingtonians in the dark about the changes and led many to believe that those old diesels were going to be a temporary inconvenience, to be replaced by a fleet of electric buses next month. Absolute rubbish of course.

    Also, some of us gave submissions to the GWRC sustainable transport committee to try and save the trolleys. Not that it did much good – the decision had been made long before.

  7. Neil Douglas, 12. June 2018, 8:50

    Bus drivers idling their diesel engines when parked at terminals etc are damaging their health (especially with the doors shut) and not saving their bosses much in fuel. So drivers should switch their engines off and put some gloves and a hat on to keep warm! It will be good for residents and pedestrians too!


  8. Richard, 12. June 2018, 12:33

    Don’t think the idling is because they want to stay warm, they do it in summer as well or is that to keep the airco going 😉

    I think it is, as per above pdf, because they think it is easier to just keep it going.

  9. NigelTwo, 12. June 2018, 13:12

    Since the decision to withdraw the trolley buses was made, most of the GWRC councillors have turned off their hearing aids and fitted horse blinkers. Their mouths just keep spouting visions of an electric utopia.

    However: “From 6am until midnight”. Aren’t Seatoun residents used to aircraft noise during these hours? We all eventually adjust to these environmental changes. GWRC are betting on it. And before you all start, I happen to believe that electric buses with fully reticulated power have huge environmental advantages over Euro “anything” buses.

  10. Swizzle stick, 12. June 2018, 13:19

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure trolleys didn’t run on weekends and diesels would have been used. Was this not an issue for these residents every weekend for the past however many years?

  11. Gillybee, 12. June 2018, 18:42

    True, but there’s a huge difference between a bus once every 30-60 minutes – versus one every 5-10 minutes.

    The east-west route between Seatoun and Karori will be one of the two highest capacity bus services on the new network, with no prospect of an upgrade to electric buses for 12 years – based on the tender documents supplied by Metlink.

    Again, this is not confined to one house, but many across the route. That’s why the meeting was called.

  12. Roy Kutel, 12. June 2018, 22:51

    Trolleys should have run at the weekends and been marketed to tourists as unique ‘our tuatara trolleys.’ But GWRC has no flair, no business acumen and no passion. The only reason they weren’t was the tow truck/electrical maintenance team – a bit like the Wairarapa line which rarely seems to run at the weekend either. Tranzit is on a nice earner running diesel bus replacements.

  13. Simon, 13. June 2018, 4:47

    It is somewhat ironic that the pilot quoted operates the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions per passenger km globally. And the noise pollution is pervasive as well. Of course, his commute to work is an hour on a plane – that must have the highest noise and greenhouse gas emission of anyone else in Wellington.

  14. Gillybee, 13. June 2018, 8:56

    @ Simon: You’ve missed the point by trying to personalise the issue. This is a problem that affects more than one person. What about all the other people who live on the route who don’t fly planes, who are subjected to noise and pollution that was not signalled by the GWRC when they took away the trolleys? What about the students at the 10 schools the buses go past on the east-west route that will be subjected to double the pollution for the next decade? What about the kids being woken up night after night and missing out on their sleep? Not to mention their parents? What about the people who live in social housing along the route who don’t have a voice, but are being subjected to the same disruption to their lives.

    All are welcome to attend tonight’s meeting. You too Simon.

  15. Casey, 13. June 2018, 10:12

    The issue, Simon, is about the thousands of people who live along the Seatoun – Strathmore – Miramar – Hataitai – Mount Victoria – CBD – Kelburn – Karori route which becomes operational in July. All are affected by the pollution from older diesel buses that should be off the road now but will be in operation for the foreseeable future. Many on this route will be impacted by increased noise also, not just those in Hector Street. We had the solution, trolley buses, so must now have battery buses on this and other Wellington City routes.

    The GWRC’s 2014 commissioned reports indicate what the removal of the trolley buses would do to pollution levels, but now the GWRC is using obfuscation to indicate the reverse.

  16. Jonny Utzone, 13. June 2018, 16:13

    The Wellington Health Board should take GWRC to court for endangering public health from increased noise and air pollution.

  17. syrahnose, 13. June 2018, 23:23

    All this noise about the life threatening devastation a little exhaust fumes will cause over a relatively short period of time until buses are replaced with electric buses, gets tedious. The electric trolley buses used to stop in front of our house on Washington Avenue which used to vibrate as well, but added the crackle of tracking on overhead wires. We just accepted it for what it was.

  18. PinotEars, 14. June 2018, 14:38

    Yes Syrahnose, it was an environmentally friendly trolley bus that stopped outside your house. Haven’t you been fortunate for so many years.

  19. Keith Flinders, 14. June 2018, 14:42

    @syrahnose: The World Health Organisation has rated diesel particulate emissions as being as dangerous as asbestos. A smidgeon of asbestos found in any building or construction site demands immediate action to contain and remove it. Health and safety issues arise.

    Relative in respect of time means different things to different people, but the intention is to keep the existing old diesel buses in service for the next 7-10 years. New buses, which Wellington City will see few of, still emit particulate matter.

  20. Gem, 14. June 2018, 18:07

    It’s not just on the bus routes either. We live off the bus route on Para Street and with the change away from trolleys, we are being woken up by not-in-service buses roaring up our road and accelerating round the corner really early every morning. It is quite a lot louder than the regular traffic noise which we sleep through happily.I assume they are taking a short cut to get to the route’s start. It is getting stressful.

  21. Simon, 17. June 2018, 1:54

    Let’s put this in context. 17% of the light vehicle fleet in NZ is diesel. Better public transport will reduce personal vehicle usage. So logically, more diesel buses, assuming they are used, will result in lower emissions.
    On the noise, you’re all behaving like spoilt children. Wellington is a growing city, the vibrancy will result in more noise. If you don’t like it, move to somewhere rural.

  22. Josie B., 18. June 2018, 8:46

    Simon, the average occupancy of a bus is 6-8 passengers excluding the driver. Many diesel buses I see chugging around town are empty. So get on a bike or walk like me and reduce the number of diesel buses please.

    And, I for one don’t want any more people either. Wellington is big enough with 120,000. Let the ‘new’ people go and live in Woodville and other zombie North Island towns.

  23. Keith Flinders, 18. June 2018, 9:33

    @Simon. In your Internet search engine place the term “Traffic noise revealed as new urban killer” and you should find the item in the UK Sunday Times dated 17 June 2018. Worth reading, even though you will need to sign up to get the full text. To get 2 Sunday Times items a month costs nothing.
    Wellington’s bus route changes from July 15th will see reduced services for some, and yet more old diesel buses on some routes where pollution free and quiet trolley buses once ran.

  24. Gillybee, 18. June 2018, 9:43

    Simon…”Emissions” are everything that comes out of the tailpipe, including CO2, which is harmful to the planet. Increased use of diesel vehicles will result in increased emissions – in Wellington by 15% according to the Regional Council’s own Price Waterhouse-Cooper report (2014). As a country we’re supposed to be going in the opposite direction.

    The ludicrous idea that engine noise (not to mention pollution) generated by diesel buses is somehow indicative of how vibrant a city is, would be news to the mayors of Milan, Beijing, Rome, Boston, Athens, Mexico City, Seattle, Vancouver, Salzburg, Geneva and Lyon – all of whom operate quiet, non-polluting and sustainable, modern electric trolley buses.

    As for behaving like “spoilt children”, a letter written by a mother whose children’s sleep is routinely disrupted by the noisy diesel buses right outside her home was read out to the councillors who attended last week’s meeting and included this excerpt:

    “Over the past 6-8 months bedtime has become fraught with tears and distress….they are woken through the night and most of them are eyes wide open when the 6am bus rumbles into life. The windows vibrate sending earthquake like shock waves through the house – to the point I’m often checking my Geonet App between 11pm and 3am. Please understand that our concerns are real and that our childrens growth and development is being compromised.”

    This is a health and safety issue. Plain and simple.