Wellington Scoop

Where’s the apology?

It seems we are expecting an apology from the Regional Council about the city’s continuing bus problems. A Wellington city councillor reported this today while she was attending a meeting of the Regional Council’s transport committee.

“Looking forward to seeing the Chair’s public statement,” tweeted Diane Calvert, who attended today’s meeting with her colleagues Sarah Lee, Chris Calvi-Thompson and Simon Woolf.

It won’t be the first apology. Back on July 20, Chris Laidlaw said: ¨We´ll get there in the end but this is a bumpy ride and I apologise to anybody who’s been disadvantaged by this … and they’re right to complain and we accept the complaints… All I can say is be patient.”

The Regional Council “need to own the problems and stop blaming others,” tweeted Sarah Lee during today’s meeting.

But Mark Cubey reports on The Wellington App that another apology is not guaranteed:

Wairarapa council representative Adrienne Staples said “we are all responsible for this” and pointed out that despite apologies at the meeting from individual councillors “nothing formal” was in place on this front. She asked if GWRC planned to issue a statement apologising to the public. The response from the chair and councillors was inconclusive, and no resolution was adopted.

At least two other regional councillors talked about apologising today.

The DomPost quotes Regional Councillor Sue Kedgley as saying she was still trying to get her head around “how we got it so wrong …We need to do what everyone said and front up and apologise to the hundreds of Wellingtonians who have been affected over the past few weeks.”

Regional Councillor (and former transport committee chair) Paul Swain agreed that things had not gone as well as hoped, according to the DomPost. “Our intent was improvement, but there are lots of things we got wrong and we apologise for that. In order to get the [public’s] confidence back, we’re going to have to come back with some immediate steps to address the issues.”

The council has agreed to impose fines for under-performing bus operators from September 30, and to urgently review timetables and capacity on core routes.

A staff report given to councillors this morning says the problems with the buses are “regrettable,” and lists them in considerable detail.

But RNZ reports Chris Laidlaw saying today that it will be no easy fix.

“We’re taking it all on board and we’re going to be instituting some changes, but it’s not easy to do because we don’t own the buses and have to re-write the contracts with the bus companies, which can’t be done tomorrow.”

Mr Laidlaw said among the obstacles would be a lack of bus drivers and a shortage of the right buses to improve capacity.


  1. Sarah Free, 8. August 2018, 21:57

    How much longer do we have to listen to the Regional Council say they can’t fix things because of “contracts”? That’s been their excuse for the last five years as well. It’s their job to get it working properly. [via twitter]

  2. Katy Mansfield, 8. August 2018, 22:15

    Sarah – isn’t transport in Wellington City your portfolio? Why do we have two bunches of Councillors doing the same thing and saying that the other one has got it wrong?

  3. Steven Molotsky, 9. August 2018, 6:22

    GWRC has at least two stages to institute: restoring bus service to the levels it was before 15 June (Hutt) and 15 July, then to look at improvements. Service is now very far behind.

  4. TrevorH, 9. August 2018, 7:16

    It’s hard to recall an episode of greater, systemic incompetence. Sesqui perhaps, but its effects were far more limited. And we pay extortionate rates for this?

  5. Hamish Rutherford, 9. August 2018, 8:21

    As bus after bus just drives past full, more and more people arrive at the bus stop. There must be hundreds of hours of human resource being wasted every day by the bus changeover. [via twitter]

  6. Ian Apperley, 9. August 2018, 8:47

    Eastern Suburbs to city commute this morning. Plus ten minutes longer than usual and growing. Worst day this week. [via twitter]

  7. David Mackenzie, 9. August 2018, 10:12

    Maybe they did not compile and analyse the feedback received from the original consultation on the new routes when it was first presented to the public some two years ago.

  8. NigelTwo, 9. August 2018, 11:56

    There seems to be fundamental problem here. Businesses all have customers. They are the ones who pay for the goods or services provided.
    The bus operators in Wellington now have just one customer – the GWRC. All they need to do is show they have met the conditions in the contract and they get paid. No longer do they have to react to people standing at dark, wet locations under a flickering “Due” sign. Any complaints go to a “fob-off department”.
    In engineering speak: good network control requires tight feedback loops. In that way the network can adapt quickly to changing demands.
    The current contract model with its blame, penalties, and faux apologies is a poor substitute. It only reacts to bad publicity. Let the bus companies meet their real users’ needs without a GWRC in the loop.

  9. Mike Mellor, 9. August 2018, 12:20

    Katy Mansfield: there aren’t two bunches of councillors doing the same thing, as public transport is entirely GWRC’s responsibility. All WCC can do is advise and lobby, and provide on-road facilities (bus stops, etc) as requested by GWRC.

    NigelTwo: if bus companies were given free reign without GWRC (or another public body) in the loop they would meet their shareholders’ needs – by no means the same thing as users’ needs.

  10. Katy Mansfield, 9. August 2018, 19:47

    @Mike Mellor – I checked and Sarah Free has the Public Transport Portfolio at WCC with Chris Calvi-Freeman doing transport strategy. I guess there are lots at GWRC doing this too (badly it seems). So yes, there are two bunches of councillors looking after public transport.


  11. Sarah Free, 9. August 2018, 22:45

    Hi Katy, Mike is correct. WCC is the road controlling authority and our role in public transport is limited to approving bus stops, shelters, bus lanes and bus priority measures, for example the bus priority signals at traffic lights.

    We also of course do have an advocacy role as affordable and convenient public transport is extremely important as part of a liveable and economically successful city, and to reduce traffic congestion.

    However it is GWRC who choose the bus types, routes, set timetables and fares and manage the contracts.

    Happy to discuss further if you’d like to , kind regards, Sarah Free
    022 121 6412

  12. Katy Mansfield, 9. August 2018, 22:58

    Thanks for that Sarah but it’s quite confusing for us – the public. I can’t be the only one wondering what the two councils do and why they seem to disagree. How does this two-council system which plans bus stops and bus lanes versus bus services compare with other cities I wonder? I think Christchurch Council owns its buses – the red ones.

  13. Guy M, 9. August 2018, 23:36

    Chris Laidlaw’s comment that “… among the obstacles would be a lack of bus drivers and a shortage of the right buses to improve capacity…” is a gross understatement – but entirely predictable. What did you think would happen, Chris, when you stripped the routes from NZ Bus and gave them all to Tranzit ?

    NZ Bus had the “right buses” and a large number of bus drivers – who did not necessarily want to give up their job to work for a company who pays less, has no facilities, has worse working hours etc. Tranzit made a promise that they would miraculously magic up buses and drivers out of thin air, somehow do it all for less, and somehow the drivers would happily agree to be screwed.

    It’s an entirely predictable debacle and Wellington deserves better. GWRC has made a total hash of it, failed to listen to the many warnings from locals, and predictably, it has all turned to custard. Laidlaw should fall on his rusty old sword and resign.

  14. Cecil Roads, 10. August 2018, 8:03

    Hey Sarah – Is it WCC’s fault that the suburban bus hubs are not built yet, as you are supposedly in charge of them? How very confusing and inefficient (I thought GWRC were in charge of bus stops – silly me).

  15. Sarah Free, 10. August 2018, 13:06

    Hi Cecil, the bus hubs have been consented by WCC;- all this some time ago. The contracts were let and managed by GWRC. I’m not sure why there has been so much delay. As recently as a few weeks ago WCC was assured by GWRC officers that they were all on track. We are now told most of them will be completed by the end of September.

  16. Traveller, 10. August 2018, 13:09

    The uncompleted bus hub outside the Drama School is creating a traffic hazard, night and day. Work on it seems to have stopped. (Is this what the Regional Council means by “on track”?)

  17. Peter Kerr, 10. August 2018, 13:48

    @Traveller: This is no mere “bus hub”. We’re talking “Hutchison Terminus” here. And terminus is the operative word.

  18. greenwelly, 10. August 2018, 15:38

    If anyone is interested, here are the plans for the stop at Hutchinson Road. It is described as a “mini terminus.”