Bus driver Talakai Aholelei pleads guilty over fatal Gisborne crash

The driver of the bus that crashed last Christmas Eve near Gisborne, killing three people, has pleaded guilty to 30 charges.

Talakai Aholelei had been charged with three counts of careless driving causing death and 27 counts of careless driving causing injury.

Fifty-three people were on board the bus, when it crashed through a road barrier, about 30km south of Gisborne near State Highway 2, late on December 24, and went 30-40 metres down the bank.

During Aholelei's sentencing indication, the judge heard how the brakes on the bus were faulty, however Aholelei kept driving - despite knowing there was a problem.

The bus was carrying students and teachers from Tonga's Mailefihi Siuilikutapu College Brass Band, who were visiting New Zealand to fundraise for their school in Tonga.

The group was travelling to Gisborne's Wesleyan Methodist Church, where they were due to perform as a band on Christmas Day.

One of the school's head teachers, Leotisia Malakai, 55, died in Waikato Hospital. Eleven-year-old Sione Taumololo and 33-year-old Talita Fifita, both from Tonga, were also killed in the crash.

"The crash was an absolute tragedy for everyone involved and we hope that holding somebody accountable may begin to bring some closure to those affected," says Tairawhiti police area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama.

"I would like to acknowledge the investigation team who have worked on this over the past four months, and the agencies who provided support to police and the victims at the time and throughout the inquiry.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the families of those involved."

The 65-year-old will be sentenced in January.