Long-serving bus company Nimon and Sons has lost the Ministry of Education's school bus contract, casting question marks over the Hawke's Bay company's future.
From January 1, 2022, Wairarapa-based transport service provider Tranzit will take over the contract.
Nimon and Sons general manager Katie Nimon said the contract loss was "like losing a family member", but the company could not compete with Tranzit's offer.
"The cost of operating has gone through the roof in the past few years," she said. "When there is a 60 per cent weighting on price, businesses our size find it hard to compete."
Nimon said the company was working hard to avoid job losses.
"Right now, we're focused on delivering our service for the remainder of our contract, and looking after our staff," she said.
"The great thing is that the runs still exist, and the staff are in demand – it's just a matter of who they're working for."
The Ministry of Education yesterday released the list of successful suppliers for the next 12-year school bus contract.
The last contracts were awarded in 2008 when Nimon and Sons picked up most of the region's school services.
But in that same year, the company lost its public transport contract to internationally owned Go Bus.
Without public transport or school bus contracts, Nimon said it was an uncertain time for the company, especially with the lack of international tourism. Nimon and Sons has been running in Hawke's Bay for 116 years.
"We've been taking Hawke's Bay kids to school for over a century – it's hard to think that we won't be part of that future past the end of this year," said Nimon.
Tranzit group managing director Paul Snelgrove said the outcome of the contracts is "bittersweet" after pitting two family-owned businesses against each other.
"We have lost all our runs in Wairarapa - our home for 97 years - so we can empathise with Nimon and Sons," he said.
"We have already reached out to Nimon with the view of working positively with them through a transition period."
Wairarapa is home to Tranzit but the company has three businesses in Hawke's Bay, one of which specialises in daily school bus transport for the MoE's special transport services, and another, InterCity.
"We love the region and are very excited to be here," Snelgrove added.
Tranzit, which employs more than 1500 staff nationwide, operates more than 1800 vehicles, including 14 electric buses.
However, the company was unable to confirm whether they would use their existing buses or buy buses from Nimon and Sons.
In Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa, Go Bus has retained their contract.
Chief executive Calum Haslop said Go Bus was happy to continue as the sole provider of school buses in CHB and Wairoa, but was expanding into neighbouring regions, having been chosen to provide services in Wairarapa, Palmerston North, Rangitikei, Rotorua and Whakatane.
"For all our current passengers and staff in Hawke's Bay, everything next year will continue pretty much as it has this year," Haslop said.
"Behind the scenes, the new MoE contracts have a higher level of contract delivery standards and reporting required, but this is business-as-usual for Go Bus, so it's no major change for us."