Wellington Scoop

Citizens tell councillors of growing concern about noise and pollution from diesel buses

by Gilly Tompsett
A group of Wellington regional councillors and Wellington city councillors have backed the damning findings by campaign group ReVolt Wellington on the impact of public transport changes on people living along routes that have been switched from trolleys to diesel buses.

ReVolt Wellington have identified a 200 percent increase in carcinogenic diesel pollutants for the next decade, a 300 percent increase in noise compared to the trolley bus era, and a drop in property values across the east-west corridor when the GWRC’s new high-frequency bus network is phased in during July.

At a meeting convened by the group on Wednesday night at the Seatoun Village Hall, GWRC councillors Sue Kedgley, Daran Ponter and Roger Blakeley, together with WCC councillors Chris Calvi-Freeman, Sarah Free and Rongotai MP Paul Eagle, met with concerned citizens from across Wellington who expressed their mounting concern about the massive increase in noise and pollution they have been exposed to by the change to a predominantly diesel bus fleet.

Hataitai resident Ray Henkel said that the noticeable increase in noise past his home in Moxham Avenue is driving him “crazy”. Since January he has closely monitored the number of buses going past and in one hour logged 32 buses – one every 2 minutes (including 15 ‘not in service’).

The debate over bus noise is gaining traction on social media with concern being voiced in other parts of Wellington.

Posting on ReVolt’s Facebook page, a Strathmore mother said she “holds her breath” when she puts her baby to sleep as buses idle outside her home.

Houghton Bay resident Graham Smith said at the meeting that the prospect of homeowners along bus routes having to spend thousands of dollars of their own money to sound proof their homes against noise was “disgusting”.

Seatoun resident and small-business owner Jen Taylor said the GWRC were breaching community health and safety laws and Seatoun resident Tim Dryburgh countered the assertion that the WCC’s hands were tied by comparing the council’s inaction to regulate transport noise with the legal requirement for the airport to sound-insulate surrounding homes, reminding the councillors that noise insulating rule-making sits with the WCC.

Currently, the only rule that governs noise abatement concerns boy racers.

Councillor Kedgley advocated strengthening local body rules to limit harm to the population and said there was nothing to stop putting money into electric buses now with cities around the world already recognising the harmful affects of diesels and putting laws in place to remove them.

Since removal of the trolley buses pollution measuring equipment in the city has shown a rise in nitrous oxide levels since the trolley buses were removed – a key indicator of diesel pollution.

With mounting public concern over the number of diesel buses on the road expected to increase dramatically next month, Paul Eagle said a change in thinking was needed at the national level and offered to get a local group together to meet the Minister of Transport.

The government-run NZTA, who contribute less than 20 percent of the public transport operating budget, are writing the rules that dictate the type of transport we get and trumps our democratic local transport planning process and imposes the country-wide standard on Wellington.

GWRC chairman Chris Laidlaw – who actively campaigned for the removal of the trolley buses during the 2016 election – was unable to attend the meeting due to prior commitments and sent apologies.


  1. Fred, 17. June 2018, 1:56

    How many citizens attended the meeting?

  2. Katie, 17. June 2018, 9:55

    Of course Cr Laidlaw had prior commitments.

  3. Keith Flinders, 18. June 2018, 8:22

    @Fed. The Seatoun Village Hall was virtually full, in spite of the poor weather and mainstream media not carrying the notification of the meeting. Some attendees were from outside the Seatoun/Miramar area.

  4. Gillybee, 18. June 2018, 8:32

    @ Fred: 40 people from across Wellington – .

    @ Katie: this wasn’t a one-off meeting. There will be other opportunities for Mr Laidlaw to come along and meet the constituents who have been affected by the GWRC’s decisions before the 2019 local body elections.

  5. Roy Kutel, 18. June 2018, 8:40

    Abolish the GWRC and give two City Councillors something to do to justify a $90k a year ‘job’. And get the Health Board to stop GWRC’s diesel buses polluting peoples’ lungs.

  6. Baksheesh, 18. June 2018, 13:10

    They would have strung Laidlaw up. He was the one leading all the misinformation the GWRC was putting out about this bus debacle. “Cleaner, greener, electric!” NOPE “Cheaper, efficient, better services!” NOPE “Good for all the citizens/ratepayers!” NOPE.

    I mean how many transport workers will be working worse shifts and taking home less to their families, how many Seniors and Students will be disadvantaged by the cut down services, how many retailers and employers will have to wear the cost of absent shoppers & workers delayed. Not even looking at the people who will quit public transport because of the time and money these changes will cost them to use it.

    The GWRC were blinkered and just saw “cheap!” that means that they save a little money and look good not increasing their ratepayer charges… but that means that the con$equence$ are paid for by everyone else down the line.

    Local Government is supposed to be looking out for their constituents, budgeting for building & maintaining infrastructure & services to increase overall wealth & living standards that businesses & individuals are unable to organise/fund themselves individually – that’s why we pay rates!

    I think Laidlaw and his ilk have forgotten that they’re not a management company squeezing services till they are cheap, and feel cheap, and end up a half-assed parody of what’s needed. They’re here to build what we can’t, not sell services down the river to line the pockets of profiteering groups hungry for our rates money.

  7. Dr Russell Tregonning, 19. June 2018, 17:12

    The Health Act 1956 — revised 2007 — requires territorial authorities like the Greater Wellington Regional Council to (among other things)–
    *improve, promote and protect public health within its district
    *employ Environmental Health Officers, whose duties include enforcing nuisance provisions, regulations and bylaws and assisting DHBs to investigate and control risks to public health
    *identify and abate nuisances.

  8. Morris Oxford, 19. June 2018, 17:12

    It is unfair to criticise Chris Laidlaw. His judgement is no different from any other former Labour MP.

  9. Peter Kerr, 19. June 2018, 20:17

    At the Willis Street/ Lambton Quay bus stop this morning conversation had to pause between me and another while the screams of four turbo-diesel buses blotted out talk, (accompanied by the periodic blast of compressed air from relief valves).
    Now that trolley buses are gone, the frequency of this maddening noise is increased. And soon, with the new bus route arrangements coming into place, we North and Western Suburbs passengers are going to be subject to it even more as we must “transfer within The Hub”.
    I’m all for progress, but need to ask why the determination to engage reverse gear.

  10. Roy Kutel, 19. June 2018, 20:49

    I suppose we should blame former Labour MP Fran Wilde, the former GWRC chairlady who disliked public transport, liked soulless cake tin stadiums and wanted more dairy farming irrigation in the Wairarapa.

  11. Gillybee, 23. June 2018, 23:10

    “I’m all for progress, but need to ask why the determination to engage reverse gear.”

    Peter the answer is because the Government agency NZTA wags the GWRC dog. Despite commuters funding 50% of our public transport budget through fares and the GWRC over 30% through rates, the NZTA who contribute a mere 16.5% get to call the shots thanks to a terrible and undemocratic piece of legislation passed in 2013 called the PTOM (Public Transport Operating Model).

    It’s largely thanks to PTOM that we’ve gone from being the only city in NZ with electric buses to being…well, just like everyone else. We’ll have 30-40 electric buses in 3 years time – out of 500. Still well below what we had until Nov 2017.

  12. michael, 24. June 2018, 0:31

    @ Peter Kerr: I completely agree with you. The buses in Willis Street and Lambton Quay are so noisy that apartment living in the inner city is being severely compromised. I hate to think what it is doing to those of use who live here permanently and many of us are concerned enough to think about moving out of the city as the health implications are really worrying. I hold my breath now whenever I walk pass the long line of buses as, noise aside, the fumes are shocking. The increase of soot and dirt on our windows is a sure sign we are breathing in pollution and our homes are now at an unacceptable noise level. GWRC needs to be held accountable for this, and something needs to be done urgently as people’s health is being put at risk.

  13. Marion Leader, 24. June 2018, 11:00

    Re noise: the new English diesels were launched in Wellington six weeks ago at an expensive event by the British High Commissioner. Are they noisy as well as smelly? Why are they now being used only in Masterton? Having had plenty to drink at the launch, what do councillors now say about the diesels they voted for?

  14. Casey, 24. June 2018, 16:40

    @ Marion : I believe that same model buses are now in service in the Hutt, so a trip out to there might give one the answers you seek.