Thursday March 8, 2018
Concern Wellington will be driven to disruption under new bus operator By Jamie Adams
A Newtown bus driver believes Wellington’s bus network could face months of disruption once a new Wairarapa-based company begins operating in July. Frank Lawton is concerned the tender Greater Wellington regional council awarded to Tranzurban, a subsidiary of Tranzit Coachlines, to operate low-emission and electric buses over nearly two-thirds of the region’s routes will lead to a staff shortage and nowhere to park the buses. He says he was told by NZ Bus, which currently operates all Go Wellington buses, that next month 90 drivers will face redundancy out of about 330 employed to make way for Tranzurban. Frank believes the long-
est-serving drivers will quit as they are entitled to significant redundancy payouts. While “theoretically” there are enough drivers in Wellington to do all the work, Frank believes Tranzurban will have to find many new drivers, as the redundant NZ Bus drivers will refuse to work for them due to claims of lower pay offers and more casual contracts. “My estimate is that Tranzurban need to not only find enough drivers at the start point - about 100-150 full-time equivalents but also need to keep recruiting a new driver every week from then on to replace the losses,” he says. NZ Bus will not be able to fill in the gap if TransUrban do not deliver because redundant drivers will not be able to return to them for 12 months, Frank says.
He adds that many new recruits will need training to get a class 2 driver’s licence and will also need a police check and passenger endorsement. Even those who have worked as drivers would need training on new routes that Tranzurban will introduce. “It short, it all takes time.” Tranzurban managing director Paul Snelgrove says he is “very comfortable” with the number of applicants they have so far and the training required for novice drivers. “I think it’s exciting that new blood is coming in.” He disputes any notion they pay less, saying Wellington drivers should expect over $22 an hour. “Long-term drivers will get a better pay rate because of extras they get in their agreements.”
Council launches housing plan
Paul insists the “hard core” of drivers will all be on permanent or part-time contracts - the only casual drivers would be those who occasionally fill in in for those on leave. He is confident parking will not be an issue, with four depots being built around greater Wellington, including one on a vacant block of land in Rongotai. Greater Wellington deputy chair of the Regional Transport Committee Chris Laidlaw says while there are “the inevitable risks associated with any transformation of this kind”, he is confident Tranzurban will have a full workforce by July. NZ Bus General Manager of Operations Claire Neville could not confirm the 90 redundancies asserted by Frank as the company was still undergoing a “realignment proposal”.
Free curtains for people in need People already anticipating the chill at home ahead of winter are being urged to beat the rush for free curtains from Wellington Curtain Bank. Anyone with a Community Services Card, who doesn’t already have curtains, can get them made for free by the Curtain Bank from now until November 30. “We support more than 570 families to warm up their homes every year – but unfortunately a lot of people wait until the middle of winter to access the service,” says Healthy Homes Manager Miranda Struthers. “We have two part-time paid staff and about a dozen dedicated volunteers, but we received orders for nearly 2300 sets of upcycled curtains last year – there is usually a backlog of orders by the time winter rolls around.” During the colder months, curtains can help to keep heat in the home, which keeps power bills down and people healthier. But with the hot summer we’re experiencing it’s worth noting that quality, lined curtains can help to keep
your home cool too. The Curtain Bank takes donations of clean, good quality curtains from the public and then upcycles, lines and sews to size for people who need curtains. Mum-of-one Raukawa Tuahuru got curtains from Wellington Curtain Bank after her now 15-month-old daughter Harmony ended up in hospital with bronchiolitis last winter. “It was cold on the ground. We had to get carpet off-cuts to at least be able to put our feet down,” says Raukawa. “The curtains took the crisp cold out of the air and it started getting warmer. The curtains help keep the house cool in summer too.” Raukawa was able to get curtains for the living room and for their bedrooms and says she can feel the difference, especially with the thickness of the curtains. People who would like to order curtains can call the Curtain Bank freephone on 0508 78 78 24 extn 705, or download an order form from www. sustaintrust.org.nz/free-curtains.
Curtain Bank customer Raukawa Tuahuru with her 15-month-old daughter Harmony. PHOTO: Supplied
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Wellington City Council has launched a 10-year plan it hopes will deliver on a vision for residents to have a safe, dry, warm homes. Mayor Lester says the council’s plan contains initiatives to address the complex housing issue, including investment of $22 million of capital and $5.7 million of operational funding to deliver the Council’s housing strategy. “We will also provide 750 affordable and social homes,” he says. New entities will deliver housing and urban regeneration projects, and work with owners on the conversion of commercial buildings to apartments, he adds. Formal consultation on the plan will begin on April 15.
Victoria a top 40 university The latest international subject rankings confirm Victoria University of Wellington as a globally ranked university but also show a clear gap opening between New Zealand’s top three universities and its other five. The results from QS World University Rankings have Victoria ranked in the top 40 of the world’s 18,000 universities for three subjects: Law, Hospitality & Leisure Management and Library Management. The results also confirm that Auckland, Otago and Victoria universities are leaders in the tertiary education sector in terms of the number of internationally ranked subjects they offer.
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Cook Strait News 08-03-18