Wellington Scoop

Four months later – who’s responsible for the unsafe buses?


by Lindsay Shelton
Who’s to blame for the Wellington buses? Responsibility is shared by four organisations – Go Wellington, its parent company NZ Bus, the Regional Council and its offshoot MetLink. In May they all apologised for weeks of disruptions which followed the discovery that some of their buses were unsafe. And this week it it started again.

“Given all the work we have done with the bus company, we would have hoped things would have improved,” said police spokesman Ross Henderson after yesterday’s checks by the police and the Transport Agency resulted in 18 unsafe buses being ordered off the roads. Hope was evidently not enough.

The bus operators had assured the police and the Transport Agency that problems found in checks in May had been fixed, said Agency spokeswoman Kate Styles. Such assurances were evidently of no value.

“We feel for those commuters who face potential disruption because of the failure by the bus operators to address significant safety issues, which they have been aware of for several months,’’ said Senior Sergeant Willie Roy of the police commercial vehicle investigation unit. He said the buses ordered off the roads had serious oil leaks – a fire hazard.

Disruptions as a result of the checks in May led to chaotic four weeks of cancelled services. As many as 45 services in one day were cancelled. It was a dismal record for the four organisations who were supposed to be responsible for public transport.

What can they have been doing since then?

They haven’t been thinking about communicating with commuters, that’s for sure. Last night the Regional Council was advising travellers to go to the MetLink website for news of cancelled bus services. But they forgot to tell MetLink. Its “latest news” was from last month, with not a mention of the consequences of 18 buses being pulled out of service. The Go Wellington website was similarly out of the loop. Its latest news, dated 6 August, promised smoother rides. On unsafe buses?

in June, when the number of disruptions was slowly reducing, there was a strange promise from the boss of NZ Bus, Zane Fulljames. He said: “NZ Bus has worked closely with the Regional Council and will continue to do so to deliver the world-class bus network that Wellington deserves and can be relied on.” But in terms of public safety, his world-class bus network is not being delivered.

August 28/29: 28 unsafe buses ordered off the roads


  1. Greg, 29. August 2013, 9:35

    My big question is if NZ Bus will see any financial penalties for failing to run services due to faulty buses. Bus maintenance is in their direct control, so there should be no way to pass the blame.

  2. Metlink, 29. August 2013, 9:47

    Trolley services have been effected in Kilbirnie due to overhead wires coming down. Please expect delays on all trolley services.

  3. Iona Pannett, 29. August 2013, 9:51

    Unacceptable performance from the bus companies (via Twitter)

  4. Ellie, 29. August 2013, 14:45


    And we are told that we can’t afford light rail


  5. Peter Kennedy, 29. August 2013, 18:21

    Whatever happened to people being held accountable ? Is honesty now a thing of the past ? Imagine the outrage if one of these buses had suffered a breakdown and caused an accident, or if the brakes had failed and killed an innocent by-stander.
    What is disturbing is the silence emanating from the Council Chambers. No accountability there.

  6. Phil C, 29. August 2013, 19:56

    This is terrible. What a cavalier attitude to the safety of the users of the buses and other drivers on the road. Loose fuel tanks, for God’s sake.

    I noted that the NZTA’s response 4 months ago was practically a PR piece from Go Buses, saying they were working with Go Buses to make sure everything was just AOK. Even NZTA spokesperson Karen Styles’ latest response lacks any weight, simply saying its “disappointing”. It’s not disappointing, Ms Styles, its appalling. Has your organisation no statutory teeth?

    A further example of New Zealand’s hopeless health and safety regime, the failures of outsourcing and the utter cowardice of public officials who should have slammed Go Buses when these issues first came to light.

    Zero marks for all concerned. Someone should be in court for this, or at the least some heads should roll.

  7. Des, 30. August 2013, 8:42

    @Phil C, Go Wellington (NZ Bus) and Go Bus (Hamilton) are two different companies operating in two different regions..

  8. Ron Beernink, 30. August 2013, 12:48

    Accountability is something that is so sadly lacking. Not just in this situation but with so many things, that one has to wonder whether it is a legacy of the Kiwi “She’ll be right” attitude.

    Unfortunately the only form of ‘accountability’ is the ability of accountants to pursue us that more tax or rate money is needed, yet avoiding spending it on the essentials. Instead letting things run down. And that’s the legacy of privatisation.

    So that “She’ll be right” legacy mixed with the misguided hope that privatisation will make things better, means that we will keep suffering from these types of blunders; whether it be Wellington buses, or a milk scare.

  9. John Clarke, 30. August 2013, 15:37

    Peter Kennedy – I trust that you’re looking for accountability from the Regional Council rather than WCC, as it’s the GWRC that lets the bus contracts. But having said that, I agree – where is Fran Wilde on this?

  10. Peter Kennedy, 30. August 2013, 19:26

    John Clarke – Both. The bus lanes are put in by the WCC, the buses are administered under contract by the GWRC. It may be privately run, but the roads are public. Too much ducking for cover by both organisations.

  11. Phil C, 30. August 2013, 23:30

    Des: I stand corrected.

    A third of buses off the road as fire hazards. This is a scandal.

  12. Phil C, 31. August 2013, 0:14

    August 6: Wellington bus drivers’ performance to be monitored using technology:


    But who, prey tell, is monitoring management for their gross dereliction of duty?

    GWRC: Why no announcement seriously threatening the company? Perhaps time to pull out that right of termination you should have negotiated into the outsourcing agreement if you were advised by competent counsel. In the alternative, you should be able to cash in on service level penalties. Right? Or were those missed, too? Could it be that Infratil are the only game in town and that the idea of a competitive market for outsourced transport is a fallacy?