Residents are "aghast" the implementation of some Bayhopper bus services will be delayed due to employment law changes coming into force next Monday.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council said in a written statement changes under the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 "forced" a delay in the reinstatement of some bus routes on the Bayhopper network in Tauranga.
The council said its Public Transport Committee agreed to reinstate the Pāpāmoa, Maungatapu and Matua bus services following community feedback in March.
These routes were due to be reinstated in April, but were delayed until later in the year due to the upcoming changes, according to the regional council.
A regional council spokesperson said the council hoped to have a clearer picture on when the routes would be reinstated on May 2.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council general manager strategy and science Namouta Poutasi said the council was "working closely" with NZ Bus to ensure changes to bus drivers' rest and meal breaks could be implemented as smoothly as possible.
Poutasi said complying to the new Employment Relations Act legislation had to be a priority for the regional council.
"The complexity of new driver rosters and staffing the shifts to prevent trips being dropped was our focus," she said.
"There was a risk that if we reinstated the new routes which require more drivers we would experience a number of dropped Bayhopper trips. This would ultimately affect the new route rollout."
The regional council was working with its contractor to reinstate the Matua, Pāpāmoa and Maungatapu services as soon as possible.
"But first we need to understand and manage the full extent of the new meal break legislation," Poutasi said.
Pāpāmoa East resident Philip Kelleway commutes to work in the Tauranga CBD each day and was aghast to hear of the delay to reinstate his old bus route.
The 54-year-old office worker previously took route 36, which travelled direct to the city, before it was cancelled.
He said it was frustrating that he was forced to transfer buses at Bayfair on his new route as it added another 15 minutes to his journey and the transfer stop was not set up to be a transport hub.
He contacted the regional council about a month ago to ask when his old route would be reintroduced and the council responded that it would be running again in a few weeks, according to Kelleway.
"It's one step forward, one step back."
He had considered cycling to work but the safety risks and distance had deterred him.
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said it accepted that the employment changes would not be phased in smoothly as desired due to the short timeframe.
"It was impossible to not interrupt bus services and just plonk rest breaks in the middle of someone's shift without significant implication."
"This was an interim step. You can't just magic an outcome that can't be achieved."
While he did not feel he could specifically comment on Tauranga services, he said the union and bus operators had gone through rosters and timetables and attempted to achieve minimal disruption.
The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 introduced a number of changes with the aim of improving fairness in the workplace and delivering decent work conditions and fair wages, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The law currently did not specify the timing, number or length of breaks as these were agreed between the employee and employer.
From May 6 this would change so employees were entitled to set rest and meal breaks based on the number of hours worked.
Employees were entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break when working between two and four hours. In a shift that was between four and six hours long, they were entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break in addition to a 30-minute unpaid rest break.
For shifts between six and 10 hours employees were entitled to two 10-minute paid rest breaks and a 30-minute unpaid rest break.
The timing of the break would be agreed upon by both the employer and employee.
If they cannot agree, the law will require the breaks to be taken at set times, so long as it's reasonable and practicable to do so.
The Government, bus service operators, regional councils and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions have been working together to help achieve the smoothest transition possible to ensure service disruptions and safety risks were minimised, along with the cost to councils, bus operators and the government.
NZ Bus were contacted for comment but did not reply before publication.