Wellington Scoop

Fewer buses will make things better?

by Lindsay Shelton
In the second year of Wellington’s failing bus service, the woman in charge announced this week that the regional council will improve the service by reducing the number of peak-hour services. On ten routes.

It’s only temporary though. Only for six months – which is rather stretching the limits of “temporary.”

Barbara Donaldson told us that fewer buses will provide peak hour travellers with “certainty.” That’s for sure – certainty about the regional council’s inability to organise enough buses to get commuters to work, and to get them home from work.

Apparently less is more for our regional council. Following Barbara Donaldson’s logic, it’s time to improve the name of the Greater Wellington Regional Council by shortening it.

Surely the continuing bustastrophe has proven that the “greater” word is ill-chosen. How about cutting it back to be the Wellington Regional Council? (Which is what it used to be.) Three words instead of four would get rid of a word which gives cause for much uncertainty about the organisation.

This week’s decision to cut services is the reversal of a decision that the regional council announced last December, when it said it would improve things by adding more peak services.

“We have completed adjustments to twelve key bus routes across Wellington city to deliver improved reliability, better connections between services and add more morning and evening services.’

More didn’t work. So now they’re trying the opposite.

And now many services are being cut? In her official announcement, Barbara Donaldson couldn’t bring herself to tell us. The DomPost did the research – there’ll be almost fifty fewer peak-hour services every day.

Perhaps it should be the Not-So-Great Regional Council.

Everything is of course being blamed on a shortage of drivers. But this situation is not looking good. The DomPost has reported that most applicants are being ruled out because they don’t have a full driver’s licence or they have drink-driving convictions. Sounds like the temporary cancellation period will have to be extended – but only temporarily, of course.

A year ago, the question was: Where’s Barbara Donaldson


  1. greenwelly, 14. August 2019, 12:27

    “Greater” is a vanity “brand” given to themselves, Their legal name continues be the “Wellington Regional Council.”
    WRC is still all over your rates bill, as it’s the only legal name they can enforce rates under. However when it comes to spending it, they can stick all sorts of “branding” on it.

  2. TrevorH, 14. August 2019, 13:35

    “Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant” (“They make a desert, and call it peace”). Even the great Roman historian Tacitus would have difficulty chronicling the antics of the GWRC – he’d be so convulsed with laughter he’d struggle to hold his stylus straight.

  3. Benny, 14. August 2019, 13:58

    “Temporary” was also the term they used for the wrecks we got out of Auckland to replace the trolley buses. See where we are now, two years later. The only thing they fixed on these buses was the ad stuck on their back. Is there anyone who cares about the state of the air? The service is so bad, the trust is so broken, the idea to transition to electric is on no-one’s radar.

  4. Tony Jansen, 14. August 2019, 15:07

    Downloading a new bus. 23% complete….someone should tell them to switch it off at the wall, wait two minutes and turn the power back on. If you are sick of business as usual and are looking for an independent candidate who actually wants to fix things and who will act with common sense and integrity, then you might as well vote for me – Tony Jansen #1.
    A real independent who will listen and act in your interests. Not a party accolyte nor a celebrity sportsperson, civil servant or media star.
    It’s time for a change.

  5. Curtis Antony Nixon, 14. August 2019, 17:02

    Lesser Wellington Regional Council?

  6. Alan, 14. August 2019, 18:37

    And Barbara Donaldson has the downright cheek to stand for re-election.

  7. Erin Bourke, 14. August 2019, 20:03

    Barbara Donaldson was the one who told us not to ‘panic’ a year ago. And here we are a year later – no one has panicked – but boy are we angry as all hell.

  8. Newtown, 14. August 2019, 21:33

    The buck stops with Campbell, not Donaldson. He should, just as the chief statistician, admit fault and step down.

  9. Sarah Free, 15. August 2019, 8:32

    Driver shortages have been going on too long now, and there’s obviously a need for some new thinking on the issue. [via twitter]

  10. Simon, 15. August 2019, 8:34

    The economist in me says that if it’s cheaper for Metlink to cancel services instead of paying enough money to encourage new drivers to join the workforce then the penalties in their contract have been set too low. [via twitter]

  11. David Mackenzie, 15. August 2019, 9:11

    It is highly ironic that Cr Donaldson should try to sell the reduction of services as an improvement, rather than the proof of failure that it actually is.

  12. Michael Gibson, 15. August 2019, 10:24

    For sheer gall and expensive P.R. spin, try this:
    On the one hand, a news release from WCC and GWRC dated July 25 stated:
    “At an update given to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee at Parliament today, the Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council presented their joint plan of action for further bus priority through the city to increase reliability and reduce journey times on key bus routes.”
    On the other hand, GWRC wouldn’t let me have any details because “the bus priority action plan is currently being developed”.

  13. Tony Jansen, 15. August 2019, 11:23

    Sarah Free: the new thinking is to stop paying peanuts (which isn’t new thinking at all). If the operators were to pay decent wages and offer decent conditions, we would not have a scarcity of drivers. They are out there, NZ Bus made plenty redundant when they reduced their share of the routes. They just don’t want to be work under the conditions offered. And who could blame them? This is clearly how the free market operates isn’t it? If you want more drivers then there needs to be a better offer on the table to act as an incentive.
    Meanwhile the penalties for non performance are clearly insufficient to act as a deterrent to the operators. They seem perfectly happy to take the penalty and carry on as usual. So any new thinking needs to address this issue also.

  14. Groggy, 15. August 2019, 15:13

    @Alan, not only that, she’s opined that she’d be a great candidate for Chair of the regional council.

  15. PCGM, 15. August 2019, 17:41

    Based on her track record, Barbara Donaldson would be an excellent choice for Chair of GWRC … assuming, of course, that the primary goal is to either have commissioners appointed or to convince the government once and for all that the organisation should be disestablished altogether.

    In fact, I will go out on a limb and suggest that Barbara Donaldson is uniquely qualified to prove beyond doubt that GWRC is no longer fit for purpose, and that appointing her as Chair would be an act of public service by the other councillors.

  16. Keith Flinders, 16. August 2019, 8:30

    In 2016 I attended a GWRC Sustainable Transport Committee meeting, writing at the time that I thought I had by mistake got the wrong address and was at a meeting for the terminally bewildered.

    Fast forward to 2019 and my opinion has changed somewhat following the comments of the now chair of the above committee. A meeting of the terminally delusional would seem more apt.

  17. George, 18. August 2019, 9:59

    Perhaps GWRC should inform ratepayers and users of the bus service exactly how many drivers were laid off when the ‘new and better’ bus service was introduced. The number is rumoured to have been significantly more than 100

  18. greenwelly, 19. August 2019, 9:55

    And here we go again. This report in the DomPost:
    “Further Wellington bus services could be cut following a recommendation to re-examine the capital’s bus timetables…Officers are not confident the current timetable will cope with demand in February and March – a busy period when people return from their summer holidays. The recommendation is based on data from the same period in 2019.”

  19. Ian, 22. August 2019, 8:59

    Fewer buses would be good for our health along the Golden Mile – but the temporary period will need to stretch until the light rail system is running on a 5-minute schedule through to the Eastern Suburbs. Then temporary will become permanent – and then all “feeder buses” and the free Golden Mile “shopper loop” buses will be electric.

    Come on LGWM – this is your vision – please make it happen starting ASAP.