Electric double decker buses launch in Wellington

New Zealand's capital went a little greener today after a fleet of ten electric double decker buses were launched.

At the launch, a Government Minister questioned the way bus contracts have been handled by the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and Tranzit and noted drivers were feeling "aggrieved".  

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters made a surprise appearance to check out one of the buses and cut the ribbon outside Parliament on Thursday, along with Minister for the Environment David Parker.

The battery powered bus fleet is the first in New Zealand, and is believed to be the first in the southern hemisphere.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters on the top deck of the bus.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters on the top deck of the bus. Photo credit: Newshub

The electric buses will be operated by Tranzit, the company unions have strongly criticised and which the GRWC has given the majority of the city's bus routes.

Unions have threatened to bring public transport to a standstill in retaliation for contracts they believe are unfair.

Mr Parker did not shy away from the feud during his speech at the launch.

"There have been controversies around the way in which this was tendered, there are some people still feeling very aggrieved," he said according to RNZ.

"They feel they have lost in the process, that terms and conditions have been eroded in the tender process."

Speaking to media after the event, Mr Parker said: "As we transition into these new technologies you've got to make sure that you treat your workforce well and we shouldn't be competing down wages in these low to middle income positions."

Electric double decker buses launch in Wellington
Photo credit: Newshub

Asked specifically about Wellington bus drivers he said: "I know there is a grievance that they feel the tender reduced some of their terms and conditions."

Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw said: "All of us need to think more about the environmental impact of our daily travel and, as a council, it is our responsibility to provide the sustainable choices our communities want."  

He said the public transport system needed to be genuinely sustainable and offer practical daily alternatives to private cars.

"We've set ourselves the target of a 100 percent electric bus fleet and the first stop on our way is ten new double deckers this year and 32 by 2021. We have to be ambitious because transport emissions are a significant contributor to climate change."