Proof Auckland Council still have too much money to spend

Auckland Council are profligate wastrels.

The Herald editorial explains just how barking mad they can be.

If Auckland Transport has been reading our mail, and doubtless its own, it will know there is outrage over its decision to paint all municipal buses the same colour. Hardly a day goes by that the Herald does not receive at least one letter on the subject. It is not just the colour that concerns the correspondents but what this decision says about the relatively new creation known as AT.

It is one of the non-elected bodies set up under the Super City to run services at a safe arms-length from local politics. The Auckland Council and the Government appoint its board but cannot interfere in the operational decisions the board and its managers are trusted to make in the interests of the service. The board’s decision to paint the buses is a classic illustration of how misguided corporate thinking can be when the body is using public funds.

Auckland bus routes are served by private companies contracted to AT. The private companies have their own livery, well known in the suburbs where they have been based for a long time, much longer than AT has been in existence.

The main fleet, once publicly owned and uniformly yellow, was painted a variety of colours a few years ago, reflecting the destinations. Bright blue went to North Shore, bright green went to Waitakere, myriad colours in a Pacific motif went to Manukau.

Auckland Council have forced these sorts of changes on private contractors before, and worse. Take the contractors maintaining parks and hard surfaces across the city. Shortly after the formation of the Auckland Council they issued an edict that any vehicles performing council-paid-for services could be no older than five years old, could only be white and carry fresh signwriting, oh and their vehicles would now be inspected as part of contract performance level monitoring. I know of two companies that simply quit the contracts as the capital expenditure required to meet these requirements wiped out any profit they made performing the contract.

Too little credit was given to the Infratil-owned company, NZ Bus, when it gave different parts of Auckland a distinctive colour scheme. It is only now that AT is imposing a uniform dark blue, that many of those writing to complain are saying how much they like the existing colour designs. They are not only attractive, they help people recognise their bus at city terminals.

If AT was a commercial operation like NZ Bus it would not have needed public acclaim at this late stage to tell it the existing bus colours are popular and working well. It would have done some solid customer research before it decided two years ago to impose one colour on all its contracted bus fleets. This, it now explains, is part of a plan to launch a “consistent brand” for all buses, trains and ferries in the region’s integrated public transport scheme.

This, it insists, will help “market” Auckland. Really? Uniform red buses have helped promote London, and yellow taxis do the same for New York, but AT’s chosen colours, blue and grey, do not sound likely to distinguish Auckland to anybody. More likely AT wants to promote itself. It is a proud new organisation on a corporate model and has come to believe it needs and deserves a higher profile. Its transferable fare card is called “AT Hop” and it is now issuing its own gold card to pensioners.

As the bus companies’ contracts come up for renewal, they will all have to paint their buses blue and grey and bear the AT logo. The cost, reckoned at $9000 a bus, will be borne by ratepayers. Corporate hubris in the public sector can always pass on its costs, and since these bodies are protected from political interference they cannot be punished by voters either. AT looks determined to make us grey and blue.

It looks like we are about to go full circle, when all the buses were ARA yellow…the next step after performing this act of livery homogenisation is to have the council acquire the businesses compulsorily. Of course, they already kind of do control them via the massive council subsidies.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.