If you’ve struggled to catch your bus on time in recent weeks, you are not alone.
A shortage of 800 bus drivers across the country - including 500 in Auckland - has led to a national public transport crisis, on top of the ongoing cost-of-living and climate crises that have seen more New Zealanders attempt to make the change to public transport.
The crisis prompted the chairpersons of Auckland Transport, Environment Canterbury, and Greater Wellington Regional Council to write a letter to Transport and Immigration Minister Michael Wood in September, writing that an urgent review was needed to address the country’s bus driver shortage.
“As you will be aware, we continue to face chronic bus driver shortages across New Zealand, leading to multiple recurring service cancellations,” the trio wrote.
“We believe that these shortages demonstrate an underlying gap in our New Zealand workforce, and therefore we must provide for overseas drivers to help meet our current and future demand.”
Speaking to Georgina Campbell on On the Tiles: Local Edition, Greater Wellington Regional Council Chairman Daran Ponter said the current crisis is a lot worse than the “lasagna of failure” that hit the capital in 2018.
“It’s literally twice as bad in terms of the number of cancellations that we’re experiencing certainly here in Wellington city.
“There are a number of things to say about that. One is that our current situation is fundamentally about a labour shortage.”
He said there has been a driver’s shortage going back at least 10 years, impacting long-distance truck drivers as well as bus drivers, but Covid-19 and the reduced timetables provided a false sense of stability in the sector.
Ponter welcomed the new immigration announcement from Minister Wood this week, which loosened restrictions to bring in international drivers, but there are other issues to address.
“I think we’ve got what we want, what we want for the moment, which is the ability to supplement local drivers with international drivers. It can’t be a long-term solution. We do need to look at ways in which driving for New Zealanders can be made a more attractive profession.”
Listen to the full podcast above for more on how public transport operates between central and local government in New Zealand, the impacts the shortages are having, and why Auckland and Wellington chose to cancel services.