Tess Nichol is the Consumer Affairs reporter for the Herald.

Waiheke locals annoyed at double-decker buses

Waiheke locals want double-decker buses like this one off the island's roads for good. Photo / Supplied
Waiheke locals want double-decker buses like this one off the island's roads for good. Photo / Supplied

Waiheke locals are being driven crazy by the introduction of double-decker buses on the island, saying the towering vehicles are dangerously clogging the roads.

Since the two-storey "hop on, hop off" buses were introduced in December last year, locals estimated about five have come off the road and others say it's difficult to safely share the road when passing.

Bus company Fullers, which owns the buses, says the vehicles are legally compliant and no longer or wider than other urban buses and coaches on Waiheke.

Concerned local man Alan Knight said much of the community's frustration came from feeling they had not been consulted before the buses were brought over.

The buses clogged up the roads and annoyed residents who called Waiheke their home year-round, he said.

"We understand there's got to be a tourism industry.

"But the double decker buses, the sudden introduction of them to the island with no consultation with the locals, has been a tipping point.

"Tipping point being the main word as they have tipped off the road into ditches on a number of occasions."

The roads were too small for the buses and it was only a matter of time before "someone has to go home in an ambulance", Knight said.

Waiheke local board chairman Paul Walden said a petition signed by more than 1000 locals had been handed to the board, which fully supported the campaign to get the buses removed.

Concerned locals say its only a matter of time before a doublle-decker comes off the road and causes serious harm. Photo/ supplied
Concerned locals say its only a matter of time before a doublle-decker comes off the road and causes serious harm. Photo/ supplied

"The buses are all over the roads because of the size of them. They're not just presenting a risk to themselves but to other road users when they're on a road where there's just not enough room for two vehicles."

It was "blatantly obvious" the buses were not fit for Waiheke's roads. Walden said he was concerned about what would happen with the heavy buses over winter, when the island's many dirt roads became wet and muddy.

The board had spoken to Fullers' chief executive Douglas Hudson about the buses.

"It's fair to say they need to be considering their relationship with the Waiheke community and whether this is in their best commercial interest to keep running their business given such widespread opposition in the community," Walden said.

Hudson said the buses were an environmentally friendly solution to the increasing number of Waiheke visitors who expected quality service.

Waiheke had become a top island destination and its transport should reflect that, he said.

"Initially, we will reduce the frequency of service over the winter, and are looking into some possible changes to the route to minimise and mitigate some of the concerns raised."

Hudson said a formal investigation was undertaken when buses crashed or went off the road and "any learnings are built into risk assessment procedures and training".

Auckland Transport (AT) is undertaking a review of the tour routes after concerns were raised by some residents.

AT spokesman Mark Hannan said the review's findings would be presented to the local board next week, but added recent wild weather would have some impact on the findings.

"If we find there is an issue we will report it to NZTA," Hannan said.

AT did not have the power to take legal vehicles off the road, he said.

- NZ Herald

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