Wellington Scoop

Push for public ownership of Wellington’s bus services

Report from RNZ
The Wellington Regional Council is pushing the government to return buses and bus infrastructure back into public ownership.

The capital’s bus system continues to struggle with driver shortages – which have led to scores of cancelled buses every day. A number of rush-hour bus services are to be temporarily cut from the end of July, with the aim of reducing unscheduled cancellations.

A new pay offer has been made by NZ Bus, that runs many of the city’s bus routes, to its drivers. The regional council played a part in the deal being reached.

The regional council’s chairman Daran Ponter told Nine to Noon the deal was “significantly important”.

“This time six weeks ago we had the prospect that we were going to have four weeks of lockout and strike action, that was just going to lock up Wellington city as a whole. To have this announcement yesterday that something positive is going to go to the drivers next week is really exciting.”

The government is currently reviewing the Public Transport Operating Model, which was introduced in 2013 to encourage competition between companies for long-term council contracts for bus services.

Submissions close on Friday, and RNZ understands the Regional Council will be pushing for a return to public ownership.

“From a regional council perspective, we’re probably at the forefront of thinking about these things and responding to them,” Ponter told Nine to Noon.


  1. Fleur Fitzsimons, 16. June 2021, 13:29

    An excellent development, bring it on! I hope to see the Regional Council (or the City Council) directly employ drivers on terms and conditions that reflect this important work. Contracting this out has been a race to the bottom with workers paying the price. [via twitter]

  2. Edward Miller, 16. June 2021, 13:35

    Great to hear Transport Minister Michael Wood saying he’s open to public ownership of public transport. Benefits for workers wages & conditions, climate, sustainable mobility, mode shift, quality of service etc are massive. It’s time we owned our public transport. [via twitter]

  3. Greenwelly, 16. June 2021, 16:06

    But does this need a law change? The Regional Council already owns the Matangi units and I think they also own the carriages used on the Wairarapa services and the waterloo interchange..

    in 2016 the Council chose to dump publicly owned Kiwirail as the operator and let a French Multinational do the job…. At the time they said
    “the new rail contract would mean better services for customers by providing strong incentives for the operator to grow patronage by making public transport “easier and smarter”.-Greater Wellington chairman Chris Laidlaw


  4. Mickey mouse, 16. June 2021, 17:16

    We the public are just pawns in a political game. As far as I can tell, the Regional Council could have opted to own the buses whenever it decided to do – PTOM or no PTOM. PTOM did not prohibit this. Now it will be almost impossible for years (5-8) because the Council is locked into contracts with owners and operators.

  5. Ross Clark, 17. June 2021, 0:38

    Who pays? I quite agree with the need to pay drivers properly – given that staff costs are about 60 percent of the cost of running bus services – but someone will have to pay the additional costs of public ownership. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

  6. Kara, 17. June 2021, 10:27

    As I understand the PTOM, it was introduced (by a party not in government at present), to drive down contract prices. The PTOM should be consigned to the dust heap and regional councils be given the public bus transport to own and operate.

  7. Ian, 18. June 2021, 7:02

    Mickey: clearly the contracts with private sector are not being delivered – so can be changed or cancelled if we set up a public service to replace non-delivered services.

    Ross: we are already paying the additional costs of private ownership – and also not getting the service. Bus fares never got cheaper under PTOM. [Just as electricity costs never got cheaper for households under the neo-lib ‘competition will be good for us’ B.S.]

  8. Mickey mouse, 18. June 2021, 9:00

    Ian, are you suggesting that the penalty clauses in the contracts are such that they could be cancelled without a protracted, expensive legal battle and while that goes on, we would still have no reliable affordable bus system? Are you suggesting in addition that the government will give the Regional Council all the necessary funds to purchase the buses and increase the pay and conditions for the drivers?

    That would be good. Then all we need to do is catch the bus and pay the fare and Bob’s your uncle. Can’t wait.

  9. michael, 18. June 2021, 11:04

    If the Regional Council took over the bus services, their track record doesn’t inspire any confidence, particularly when they have failed to achieve their “ambitious and visionary blueprint to ensure that Wellington’s public transport system remains the best in New Zealand.”