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Environment Minister takes swipe at Council at Bus Reveal

Environment Minister takes swipe at Greater Wellington Regional Council at bus reveal

Jane Patterson, Political Editor

The wheels fell off at a launch for new electric buses after the environment minister publicly called out the Greater Wellington Regional Council over its treatments of bus drivers.

Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

It comes as the capital prepares for a full bus network changeover, with 106 people being made redundant as a new company takes over services on 15 July.

This morning more than 30 services were cancelled, and NZ Bus said driver availability was the main reason as drivers were finishing up their contracts and using up their leave entitlements.

The council launched its new electric, double-decker buses at Parliament today, but the event took an unexpected turn when the minister David Parker took the opportunity to fire a warning shot at local government officials for the way they had handled the contract transfer.

As one the guest speakers, Mr Parker told the audience - many of whom looked visibly shocked - the coalition government was changing the law to avoid exactly those kinds of practices.

"There have been controversies around the way in which this was tendered, there are some people still feeling very aggrieved.

"They feel they have lost in the process, that terms and conditions have been eroded in the tender process," Mr Parker said.

It was clear the minister had delivered a different speech to what the council had expected.

The host of the launch then told the audience she would give them the information the minister had 'left out his speech', looking through her notes saying "this isn't awkward at all".

In response to the minister's comments, chairperson of the Regional Council Chris Laidlaw said it was a very complicated situation, and he welcomed proposed changes to the legislation governing contract changes.

"I wish there had been a simpler formula ... part of the difficulty is guaranteeing terms and conditions carry over is awfully difficult because whose terms and conditions are you talking about, there's a huge array of different terms and different conditions."

But he had a blunt messages for the drivers who did not turn up today.

"It is unacceptable and there are penalties for that; they are contracted to provide those services."

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