$1m spent on art deco buses

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 10/10/2012
Napier's unroadworthy deco bus
Fairfax NZ
DECO DUD: One of two art deco-style buses that cost Napier City Council almost $1 million to refit and have been deemed unroadworthy.

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Almost $1 million of Napier ratepayers' money has been spent on two tourist buses that aren't fit for the road.

Indicators that don't work, faulty headlights, two unattached seats and a patchy paint job led to the refitted art deco buses being declared unroadworthy in a road test last week.

Napier City Council employed California-based H.B. Industries to refit the secondhand buses late last year.

The public buses were designed to ferry cruise ship tourists from Ahuriri to Marine Pde.

Council chief executive Neil Taylor was sent "impressive" photos once the buses were finished and thought everything was on track to have them running by next month.

But alarm bells rang last week when the buses failed a road test in Wellington. An inspector found they were not roadworthy, so could not be driven to Napier.

Mr Taylor was "very disappointed" at the poor-quality refitting. The council had checked the company's record before letting the contract last year.

"They had very impressive references."

The full price of the design and refit was thought to be nearly $1m, but the council was yet to pay a $30,000 retention fee to H.B. Industries and Mr Taylor said it was unlikely to do so.

"From 20 metres they look very impressive, but the finish is just not acceptable."

With the help of local bus company Nimon and Sons, the council transported the buses to Hastings for a full mechanical inspection.

Kiwi Bus Builders, of Tauranga, was now working with the council to identify what additional work was needed.

Mr Taylor intended to use the retention fee to pay for the extra work. He hoped the repairs would come in under budget but would seek more council funds if needed.

The buses would not be on the road by next month, as expected.

Mr Taylor had written to express his disappointment with H.B. Industries and said he would not use the company again.

H.B. Industries owner Bob Rowsell was unaware when contacted by The Dominion Post that the council was unhappy.

"I heard they had a few glitches, small problems that can be easily fixed."

Mr Rowsell, who has been restoring vehicles for 50 years, stood by his team's work.

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- The Dominion Post

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