Wellington Scoop

Karori residents want Laidlaw to resign over bus failures

Report from RNZ
Furious commuters packed into a Wellington school hall last night calling for heads to roll over the city’s chaotic new bus service.

Hundreds of people have already vented their anger at meetings in Newtown and Kilbirnie and last night it was Karori’s turn.

About 300 people crammed into the hall at Karori West Normal School eager to have a crack at regional councillors over the new bus routes. For many, it was the first time they had been able to confront the regional council about the changes, which have now been in place for eight weeks.

One of the first to speak was Northland resident Linda.

“I am livid, I am angry, because I’m really upset about this new system,” she said. “Do you know that the city is actually Lambton Quay, Willis Street and Courtenay Place? And do you know that people work there? And from Northland, you can’t get there in one go!”

Soon after was Wellington Hospital worker Sandra, who said her pay had been docked because the new service made her late.

For 15 years she had been catching the number 3 bus, which used to take her direct to the hospital. Now she is forced to take two buses.

“From the time it started I’ve only managed to catch three buses that link to Wellington Hospital,” she said. “I have to get off at Courtenay Place, and my colleagues and I walk all the way to the hospital. Why? Because we get docked because of the bus service.”

Throughout the night, people called for Regional Council Chairman Chris Laidlaw to resign. They said he was responsible for the nightmare and they wanted him held to account.

But Mr Laidlaw said he wasn’t going anywhere.

“Well that would be easy…I could walk away and that would be the easy way out,” he said. “I’m not intending to resign, I’m intending to get this right.”

But Wellingtonian Jamie said he wasn’t convinced. “It’s a lasagna failure… I mean they couldn’t have dug a deeper hole if they tried.”

The council said it was trying to fix the problems but that would take some time so for now Wellingtonians would have to make do.


  1. Grant Robertson, 31. August 2018, 9:22

    Really angry and hurt crowd of bus users in Karori last night. The Regional Council cannot ignore the problems they have created. I will continue to advocate for route changes and more services. And to revisit the whole public transport funding system that started this mess. [via twitter]

  2. Wellington Commuter, 31. August 2018, 9:32

    If it costs more to fix the Wellington bus service, than so be it. Let’s not forget greaterwgtn is spending about $6.1million per year LESS for our “improved” bus service ($5.4M from cost savings & $1.5M from higher fares). We can at least expect savings to go towards fixing this! [via twitter]

  3. Katie, 31. August 2018, 9:37

    I posted this once a while back but it really does need restating –
    Definition of delusional: an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument.
    It will be interesting to see whose names show up on the ballot papers next year, won’t it?

  4. Wellington Commuter, 31. August 2018, 10:21

    RE: Laidlaw standing again. I think it is a safe bet that he will NOT be standing again as a Regional Councillor … at least not one representing Wellington City.

  5. judi, 31. August 2018, 10:34

    Chris Laidlaw and other GWRC Councillors at the Karori meeting tried to fob us off with excuses. Blame the IT system, blame the cars etc. It is a complete shambles, poorly designed and executed and needs to be restored to the old bus routes (and bring back decent wages and conditions for the drivers). Then the GWRC might like to go back and read the many submissions that explained why their stupid hub and spoke design was not going to work and what public transport people actually needed and no longer have.

  6. Roy Kutel, 31. August 2018, 11:00

    Grant Robertson and the Labour Government are part of the problem! They had a chance to save Wellington’s 100% electric trolley buses but did nothing. It’s alright blaming ‘funding’ but look at the size of the GWRC wage bill – 496 people with the top man getting over $420,000. And then there are the 13 Councillors (none of whom have any qualifications in transport) with ten on gold cards and Chris Laidlaw getting over $150,000. GWRC needs the axe with a Public Transport Authority created that is run by some qualified experienced transport professionals to a budget.

  7. D Boyle, 31. August 2018, 12:42

    If it was war time they would fix it in hours

  8. Glen Smith, 31. August 2018, 18:00

    We need to be more objective in our criticism. I know from some previous personal emails (some time ago) that Chris Laidlaw on principle supports the required definitive solution of a rail based ‘mass transport’ across town corridor and his public statements reflect this. However this is a huge undertaking which due to our fragmented planning system with at least 4 organisations involved (WCC,WRC,NZTA and central government) will be a nightmare to organize. This has been hampered by a previous government and NZTA (who are required for the necessary central funding) that pushed an illogical car based ‘solution’ (that research showed will instead cause congestion to escalate to dire levels) and out of town councillors fixated on ‘4 lanes to the planes’ for their constituents rather than the superior solution of rail lines direct to the airport.

    The LGWM process along with a new government that, evidence from Auckland suggests, is prepared to invest the necessary funding, offers hope of a good outcome but they have failed to get the design right so far and we need to continue to pressure and direct them. A definitive solution will take time. Shooting the messenger, who is likely an ally and in a good position to assist in advocating for this, won’t help.
    Grant Robertson. You attack the Regional Council yet the solution is one that only you in central government can supply by allocating the necessary funding for a long term definitive plan. The current stupid Hub and Spoke design is a symptom of failure of funding by central government (admittedly a different government). The Regional Council can’t implement a logical solution if they don’t have the money, Hence the cheap but fundamentally flawed and ultimately doomed attempt at a solution in the form of a Hub and Spoke design.

  9. Lim Leong, 31. August 2018, 21:33

    Hi @Glen. I largely agree with your sentiments.

    However, I do not quite agree that the current flawed network is a direct consequence of the funding constraint. Yes. It is a factor but the duty of care lies squarely with the professional network designers/transport planners to design something that is fit for purpose within the budget framework.

    If it is impossible to design something that is workable within the budget constraints then the network designers are bound by the professional code of practice /code of ethics to escalate to senior management and beyond in writing stating why. A professional engineer does not design a bridge which is going to collapse because there is insufficient funding.

    The current situation is that GWRC has shown no intention/no urgency/no time frame to address the root cause of the problems. People are seriously impacted on a day by day basis and we have been told even the simplest solution like reinstating Bus 18 is at least 3 months away!

    People are really angry because their livelihood has been impacted for no good reasons. There is a very strong groundswell at grass root level wanting to see change immediately because people don’t want to spend hours of their life every day fighting the network.

    Unlike a point to point network which you can do piecemeal improvement/changes without worrying too much about systemic impact. Trying to make piecemeal changes to a hub and spoke model is very high risk because any change on a spoke can actually have a bad unintended effect throughout the network. If you make a change to a hub and spoke network, you actually have to re-balance the whole network.

    For that reason, I and many others have advocated rolling back to the old network which is a good starting point and a known baseline. However, GWRC seems oblivious and that is causing public anger which is growing by the day.

  10. Glen Smith, 1. September 2018, 2:12

    Lim. I agree. The Hub and Spoke design won’t work in Wellington and we should default back to the previous point to point network. It is unclear what the planners were thinking and how they presented this design to our elected representatives (who of course aren’t experts and rely on accurate professional advice to make their decisions). However apportioning blame usually isn’t useful in resolving problems.
    But this won’t provide a long term solution. The projections suggest we will likely require a doubling in PT trips by 2041 to hold congestion at its present level and I disagree that we can just add this in a piecemeal fashion. A step change in capacity and function is required to accommodate growth for this century and beyond. The evidence is that this will require a second across town corridor and logically this should be a seamless extension of our existing rail network as across town ‘lines’. The only sensible route is the Quays. No sound reason has been given given why this is unachievable and no proper analysis or costing have been presented for this design (or likely even undertaken). This will require significant funding but the evidence is that it will more than pay for itself in savings on external costs and can be spread over over successive budgets.
    The ideal would be to have an overall long-term ‘masterplan’ and progressively work towards this as funding becomes available. The bus review was an opportunity to begin this process. Instead the whole thing will have to go back to the drawing board and be rehashed.
    It was 2013 when Neil Douglas and Daryl Cockburn presented their proposal for Quays rail and I put forward mine at the same time. Our route and station placements were essentially identical (although his only went as far as the Basin and retained transfer at the Station). Given sensible leadership the whole thing could have been just about up and running by now. Sigh.

  11. Lim Leong, 1. September 2018, 7:59

    @Glen. I agree with your view that it is time to go back to the drawing board as the “unfortunate experiment” has unfortunately failed. However, whether GWRC (Councillors, management, and planners) have the tenacity to admit mistakes and start over again is anybody’s guess. I do believe the central government is now more amenable to help with funding to do things properly after seeing how this shambles has badly affected thousands of people who rely on the public transport network on daily basis. You hit it on the head on “whether we have sensible leadership” or not!

  12. Patricia, 2. September 2018, 21:02

    It is rather Ignorant for the regional council to say wellingtonians will have to wait for them to sought their mess out.

  13. Jan Rivers, 2. September 2018, 23:46

    The lower cost, higher fares, fewer buses, sacked drivers and lower pay are all pretty much laid at the door of the 2013 changes to the PTOM Public Transport Operating Manual which aimed specifically to cut subsidy levels and to force commercial operations on what is a public service delivered through overlapping contracts. The result is not even zero sum – it appears we all lose, even the companies that won the contracts.

    There are alternatives to lowest-offer competitive tenders that would create a great public transport system, help cut emissions, get some cars off the road and create a more livable city. These are in the power of central government to change. In the meantime it would be the honourable thing if those councillors who signed this off & destroyed the trolley bus system as well stood down.

  14. Concerned Wellingtonian, 3. September 2018, 8:50

    Jan, I fully expect that the guilty Councillors in Wellington will decide not to stand again.

  15. John Rankin, 3. September 2018, 9:54

    @GlenSmith: one hopes some senior people at GW have taken the opportunity to talk to the Canadian visitors about a masterplan for building a rapid transit network in Wellington City.

    @JanRivers: yes, if we are to implement a hub and spoke network design that actually works, GW will need to invest in operational excellence, not being a lowest cost operator. I can’t think of any business anywhere that has cut its way to excellence.

  16. Citizen Joe, 3. September 2018, 10:53

    @JR: Pak’nSave, the Warehouse, Gull Petrol, Ryan Air are examples of successful low cost businesses. Today’s Councils don’t see core business and keeping costs down as something they want to do for ratepayers. Fancy bling is in.

  17. John Rankin, 3. September 2018, 11:03

    @CitizenJoe: you can be a low cost business or you can deliver operational excellence, but you can’t do both. Making a hub and spoke design work for travellers requires investment in excellent service delivery. Nobody would accuse Ryan Air of delivering an excellent customer experience, but the price is right. If GW wants to be a low cost operator, stick to a point-to-point network, where excellence is not an operational requirement.

  18. Lim Leong, 3. September 2018, 12:54

    @John Rankin. I am afraid I have to disagree with you completely. It is more than possible to deliver a low cost business and operational excellence. There are many examples both here in NZ and overseas where operational excellence and low cost are not mutually exclusive. The notion that low cost operator and operational excellence are mutually exclusive is last century.

    Shining/Benchmark overseas examples – Amazon, Landsend.
    Local examples – PB Tech, Spec Savers