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Wellington bus company looks to students to solve shortages


Shayel Johnston pictured at Howick and Eastern bud depot inside New Zealand's only hydrogen bus.

Shayel Johnston pictured at Howick and Eastern bud depot inside New Zealand’s only hydrogen bus.
Photo: Supplied

Amid a worrying shortage of bus drivers, a Wellington bus company is targeting a new market of recruits – students.

Tranzurban delivers 60 percent of the bus services in the region, contracted by Metlink and the regional council.

Wellington is short more than 100 drivers, leading to reduced and cancelled services and grumpy commuters.

Metlink has cut peak-hour routes to provide certainty that scheduled services will actually arrive, and the regional council is lobbying the Government to change immigration rules to attract bus drivers from overseas.

In the meantime, Tranzurban is looking to attract staff from a younger demographic to address its own shortage of 37 drivers.

Ethan Hakopa, 23, began driving buses a year ago while he finished his degree, and had only recently made the switch to the role of recruitment advisor.

“The first time I drove a bus, the biggest thing I’d ever driven before that was a van,” he said.

“When I went on to the larger ones, it was pretty intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun – I really enjoy it.”

His main route was the number 25, between Khandallah and Highbury.

It wasn’t a career he’d considered, until a friend, a current bus driver, told him to give it a go.

“You kind of have this idea that it’s for older people, which is kind of false now, because we actually have quite a few young drivers.”

The timetables turned out to be perfect for students, he said, and the pay started at $27 an hour.

All applicants needed was their full driver’s license, as training and heavy vehicle licensing was done through the company.

Howick and Eastern bud depot

Howick and Eastern bud depot
Photo: Supplied

Tranzurban said the job provided students with important life skills – safe driving, decision-making, assessing risk, responsibility, teamwork and customer service.

Tranzurban’s general manager for Wellington and Auckland, Samuel Stairmand, said the job allowed young people to be part of the change they wanted to see for the climate.

“This is a very, very good way for them to be able to go and actually contribute something that’s meaningful, and get paid, while they’re studying,” he said.

“They don’t have to go and work in jobs where they’re out all night.”

Stairmand said the perception of low pay and poor conditions was “just not true”, nor was the job restricted to one demographic.

He had no concerns about the ability of young people to do the job, despite them generally facing higher insurance premiums due to their inexperience.

According to statistics from AMI insurance claims, drivers under the age of 25 are 26 percent more likely to have an accident compared to all other drivers.

But Stairmand wasn’t concerned. “I think insurance companies look at statistics, but what we’re talking about is a specialized career path.”

He was confident their training was enough to equip young drivers.

The company had previously seen success hiring students, with young drivers even moving on to other roles within the industry.

One remained in Tranzurban in a project management role, and another was now on the team for transformational transport infrastructure, Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

In fact, Stairmand himself started as a driver after deciding a career in banking wasn’t for him.



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