Ritchies to pay 12 drivers to live in Queenstown to run $2 bus service
Drivers are having to be brought in from other parts of the country as Queenstown's revamped bus service failed to recruit enough staff. .
The move would "seriously hurt the budget" for bus company Ritchies, which operates the town's public transport system.
The company failed to recruit enough drivers in Queenstown, so had to transfer a dozen bus drivers from elsewhere in the country and pay for their accommodation. The drivers could be needed for up to six months.
The Otago Regional Council's new transport scheme for Queenstown, including new timetables and routes, starts on November 20.
Ritchies Queenstown manager Nyall Fraser said 12 people would come from Auckland, Gore and Whangarei to fill the driver vacancies.
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"It's a very, very expensive exercise for us – and it's not optional, it will have to happen," he said.
"It's a long-term business we are looking at, so if we put people up for six months while we try and get permanent staff in then that's what we will do."
Ritchies currently has 20 full-time drivers and about 10 part-timers in Queenstown.
The company had two months to find more staff after winning the tender for the new bus service. It took over six weeks to become a qualified driver, Fraser said.
"Realistically it would be great to have 10 days to train every single person on the customers skills, driving and everything else but in reality you just don't have that time."
Ten extra buses will be added to the existing fleet of 10 before November 20.
"We will get it done. Maybe not all the buses will be here by day one but they will be here on day five," Fraser said.
Anybody could learn to drive a bus, they just needed a "people's personality", he said.
The job was not seasonal, unlike many others in Queenstown, and provided a stable income.
"It pays a whole lot better than hospitality. You can go into the bank and get a mortgage – you can't if you are a cleaner at the hotel," Fraser said.
The new bus service was funded by the Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and the NZ Transport Agency.
The district council was seeking community feedback on proposed bus stops before they were finalised.
Council property and infrastructure general manager Pete Hansby said modifications were required to some bus stop sites.
"To prepare the stops for safe passenger use and pedestrian traffic, as well as providing a practical and useable site for the bus operator, we need to put in signage, road markings and remove parking in certain places," he said.