$1m buses months away from debut

By Doug Laing

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A Napier City Council tourism venture, jeopardised by the failure of two custom-made imported buses to meet New Zealand safety standards, won't start before February, according to council chief executive Neil Taylor.

The two buses, bought second-hand in France and customised in the United States to an Art Deco theme under which their service will be marketed, arrived in New Zealand a month ago and should have been in use in time for the first cruise liner visit of the summer yesterday.

Landed at the Port of Wellington, their only kilometres on New Zealand roads were to a vehicle testing station in Porirua, where inspectors found defects in seating, safety belts, indicators and lights. Other deficiencies included a missing spare wheel.

Barred from being driven on the roads, the buses were then brought to Hawke's Bay on specialised road transport and later taken to Rotorua company Kiwi Buses, who have made a full inspection and are undertaking to get the buses ready.

The full implications were still being assessed but Mr Taylor said there had been "no more surprises".

The demands on Kiwi Buses, with other contracts to fulfil for major national companies and also a Christmas-New Year break scheduled, means the work is unlikely to be completed until February.

Returning the vehicles to the United States for the issues to be remedied had not been an option, he said.

The $1 million-plus cost of the buses and introducing them to service with their open-air viewing platforms is intended to be covered by customers, not by ratepayers, the council says.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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