After a particularly difficult year, parts of our public transport network are finally starting to recover as more and more bus drivers arrive from overseas.

Just over a week ago Auckland Transport said:

Auckland’s bus driver shortage is now below 170, down from a peak of 570 at the end of last year. For passengers, this means more buses and more reliability across Auckland’s bus network.

In recent months there have been strong signs of recovery, with bus patronage lifting to above 80% of pre-covid levels.

And for the fourth consecutive week, Auckland’s bus cancellation rate has been below 5%.


Mr Koper is confident that all previously removed services will be added back to the timetables by the end of July.

“Within the next month, we will be able to restore all services that were removed from timetables last year and by the end of September we’re expecting to get back to the same levels of reliability we saw before COVID.”

That’s a significant and very welcome improvement and one that was confirmed again in an interview again last week by AT CEO Dean Kimpton.

So it’s incredibly frustrating for PT users that this week many buses are cancelled due to strike action.

From Tuesday 11 July to Friday 14 July, some bus services operated by NZ Bus will be cancelled due to the driver strike continuing. Cancellations will take place from the start of service each day until the end of the morning peak. There may be further delays and cancellations throughout the morning as normal service resumes.

Affected Routes:

  • CityLINK, InnerLINK, OuterLINK, TamakiLINK
  • 101, 105, 106, 110, 125, 125X, 128, 129, 14T, 14W, 162, 18
  • 20, 22N, 22R, 24B, 24R, 25B, 25L, 252, 253, 27H, 27W, 295
  • 30, 321
  • 64, 650, 670, 68
  • 75, 751, 755, 76, 774, 775, 781
  • 801, 802, 806, 807, 814, 82, 842, 843, 871
  • 923, 924

Last year the government announced $61 million towards increasing drivers wages, which came on top of other increases from Auckland Council and Waka Kotahi, noting

The intention is to work towards base rates of $30 per hour for drivers in main centres and $28 per hour for regional services.

Stuff has a good explainer on the issues which primarily seems to be about wages and the length of shifts. On wages, it seems that NZ Bus offer two different options for drivers, a higher flat rate or a lower base rate with an overtime penalty rate and allowances. The unions say that most are on the latter.

NZ Bus said they proposed a new offer that exceeds the shared target of raising pay rates to $30.00 per hour.

NZ Bus says the proposed flat rate for drivers would start at $31.00 per hour from July 2, increasing to $33.20 per hour from March 31, 2024, and the base rate increases to $28.00 per hour with additional rates from July 2, and then $30.00 per hour from March 31, 2024.

I can’t comment on the quality of the offer other than to say that we do support drivers being paid fairly as the work they do is critical to helping keep the city moving. What does frustrate me though is that it’s the travelling public who bare the brunt of the disruption, including potentially impacting their ability to get to jobs or appointments. I guess the only upside to it being this week is that school kids aren’t also impacted.

I also note that the union claims these weren’t ‘last-minute’ strikes. That may be the case but they certainly are for the travelling public.

Hayley Courtney, First Union organiser, said there was no movement during Monday’s mediations.

“We sat down in mediation with NZ Bus today in good faith and listened to them reproducing the same offer that members have already rejected without any realistic movement or negotiation at the table,” she said.

Courtney said the strike was in no way a surprise to NZ Bus, nor was it a ‘last-minute’ strike.

“We have warned them again and again that drivers are not being listened to during bargaining and have already delayed strike action twice during the last month as negotiations continued fruitlessly.

A much preferable approach would be the one the unions took in 2019 where they refused to collect fares. That way services still ran so the public could still get round while

About half of Auckland’s bus services were free today and for the remainder of this week due to a deadlock between the drivers’ employer NZ Bus, and members of two unions, FIRST and NZ Tramways Union.

AT HOP card machines were disabled and drivers refused to take cash fares on the NZ Bus services, which make up about half the city’s fleet.


“The power of industrial action of this nature is precisely that it costs the employer a bunch of money, and is designed to put it under pressure in that way,” he said.

Auckland Transport said the bus company was liable for lost revenue.

I hope the unions and NZ Bus are able to get this resolved asap.

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  1. Not collecting fares seems like a great way to both make your point and generate public support. Is there some kind of threat from the operators that if the drivers don’t collect fares they won’t get paid?

  2. I am special needs and I need the buses to go to work I can’t drive is not safe for me to drive so I have to catch the bus andto pick up my meds and get out there and put in the company but you have take that away infrom us who needs it most

  3. Fully support bus drivers being paid fairly (and there’s clearly not enough public information to make a judgment on whether NZBus or the unions are the ones telling the truth in this instance), but given that many people rely on PT as their only way of getting around, a strike with 24 hours of notice really isn’t acceptable.

    On this point, it’s interesting (and revealing) to hear union boss Gary Foggart talk about how he’d ensure school services were running (if it wasn’t school holidays) because kids rely on the buses – as though he’s completely unaware that plenty of other people are also entirely reliant on PT to get around.

    Some of the Australian states provide a good model for how the ability for PT operators to strike can be preserved while reasonable protections are put in place to prevent short-notice action like this which treats PT users as worthless pawns.

  4. Obviously with so much of our public transport restricted with the CRL and Eastern Lines out of service, buses are filling a myriad of gaps in our network.

    Bus drivers are often working more than forty hour weeks, without the same overtime benefits that many other industries honour. This is very much the private bus companies taking advantage of recent arrivals and other new entrants to bus driving.

    First Union is correct in ensuring that our bus drivers, who are the backbone of our city at the moment, are properly renumerated for the skill required to operate such a large vehicle, the number of lives they are protecting while operating a bus, and the health and safety risks they expose themselves too when operating buses, particulary on weekend nights.

    These are important services; we must respect the people who put their own lives at risk to continue to offer this option to those of us who cannot drive, or choose not to drive.

  5. “We sat down in mediation with NZ Bus today in good faith and listened to them reproducing the same offer that members have already rejected without any realistic movement or negotiation at the table,” she said.

    Assuming this is a true representation – and I guess that’s easy to check – then can NZ Bus simply be excluded from contracts in future? It’s simply not true negotiation. And it seems to me it’s another example of the stupidity of these negotiations being in the private sector when the public are affected so much.

    Having heard about the success of Greater Manchester’s decision to pull the bus services back into public control, I’m toying with the idea of watching a UK webinar on tomorrow evening titled: “The Future of Buses”. I can give further details if anyone’s interested.

    In short (according to the blurb) the UK’s situation is that the Bus Services Act 2017 was introduced in a bid to combat the perceived challenges faced by the bus industry following deregulation in the 1980s and to allow some local authorities greater control over the bus services being operated in their area. Two new operating models were introduced: franchising and enhanced partnerships (EPs). This webinar will explore these, as well as the plans and funding being provided in response to the March 2021 “Bus Back Better: England National Bus Strategy”.

    1. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the changes in Manchester. They’re not moving to direct public operation of buses, they’re instead moving to a franchising system where routes, timetables and fares are determined by local government and the buses are operated by private companies under contracts. This is almost identical to the current system in Auckland, so there’s absolutely no reason that a situation identical to this week’s industrial dispute couldn’t occur under Manchester’s new system.

      1. OK thanks for that. I did wonder. Do you know how the level of ownership of the buses (public vs private) compares between the cities, John?

        My question remains then, do we need to bring the operations in house so that there can be more control?

  6. To be honest I hate Auckland buses, due to two things. Apart from the handful of EVs the buses are some of the worst polluters in the city. Secondly, the driving standards of bus drivers is appalling. They intimidate cyclists on purpose and regularly break road rules, run red lights.
    Until those things change I’ll keep on biking and driving.

    1. Exactly, I had a bus driver hold down his horn at me because I dared to ride an e-scooter on the road. I wasn’t even impeding his vehicle, I was just existing. Some bus drivers seem to think the bus is their own personal vehicle and get the same ‘I’m the most important, screw everyone else’ attitude that is usually reserved for drivers of expensive European cars.

      1. Exactly. I had a heated debate with one who was adamant that the khyber pass bus lane was not for motorcycles or bicycles. This was after he nearly squashed me when changing lanes without looking.

    2. > They intimidate cyclists

      Part of this is down to AT forcing cyclists to share the same lane as a bus which typically travels at 60 km/h.

      1. Theres a difference between intimidating simply by virtue of being large vehicles in close proximity, vs intentionally intimidating (which I have seen a lot of bus drivers do).

        When I am cycling on the road, I much prefer to have a bus lane to ride in rather than ATs latest definition of a ‘cycle lane’ which seems to always end up as a shared path which is full of pedestrians, broken glass, hapless tourists on lime scooters, and traffic signals which run on a completely different schedule for cyclists and force me to wait for ages at every intersection even when general traffic lights are green.

      2. So what though? If its a peak time they still have an advantage following the cyclist as opposed to being stuck in the congested lane. Probably not safe to be doing the full speed anyway with people crossing the road, cars crossing into side streets/driveways and so forth.

        Many who cycle will generally duck off onto the path or between the cars if its practical as opposed to having a bus directly behind them for a long while. But there is no requirement to do that.

        The timetable should just take that into account, and probably does. It could be far worse, like a car still being parked there when its an active bus lane. Newsflash, those don’t move at all, until a tow truck gets there, so buses have to try moving back into the much slower/congested lane to get past anyway.

        Bullying the slower person is definitely not appropriate.

  7. Fortunately the legislation has been changed here to allow services to return to public ownership. So one level of unnecessary ticket clipping (very appropriate here) removed if this is taken advantage of.

  8. I thought the governments Fair Pay Agreements were supposed to solve the bus driver pay problem? Its supposed to be in place before October according to the Stuff article. I can’t really see why it should take so long to create, and strikes over negotiations with NZ Bus appear to be almost a waste of time given how soon the Fair Pay Agreement should be in place?

    1. Fair pay agreements are just a minimum set of pay and conditions for the industry/job. A floor. They won’t affect negotiations for more than the minimum like the NZ Bus contract.

  9. And on a mostly unrelated subject I see that that dirty old slow diesel train from Frankton has been banned from the Auckland Rail network.

      1. The solution for Hamilton seems so obvious post CRL. The sprawl express is already proposed. Drop 1 or 2 stops from around Drury, and extend that to Hamilton with wires or hybrids, adding an extra station or two in South Waikato, and run it into the bay platforms in Britomart. That might be slightly less competitive travel times from Hamilton to Auckland, but would be immediately well patronised for most of the journey and therefore essentially immune to (political) criticism.

        Adding to the lower North Island hybrid order is a huge opportunity. I would love GA to run an active campaign on that as it would, conversely, be a huge missed opportunity when the proposed post-CRL running pattern gives the necessary slots and the bay platforms at Britomart make it perfectly suited as the terminus for regional trains.

        1. Obviously as a lower frequency extension (eg hourly all day / week), with shorter peak overlays from Puke as currently proposed.

          Together with some track improvements that also benefit freight (swamp bypass and doubling Ngarawahia bridge) the BCR of such a package must stack up very well, including compared to the lower North Island.

  10. Yep have followed closely. In the current climate working it into the post-CRL express workings seems a more realistic and palatable option than regional rail from scratch though

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