A man has been arrested after a "violent and unprovoked attack" that left a central Auckland bus driver fighting for his life - the second serious assault on him in less than a month.
The attack occurred on Great North Rd in the suburb of Waterview at about 10:20pm on Wednesday night.
Police say the passenger had "dragged the driver from his seat to the aisle, striking him multiple times". The driver was left in a critical condition.
He has now recovered slightly, but remains in hospital in a "serious but stable" condition, according to Detective Senior Sergeant Phil Cox of Auckland City Police.
"The attacker then fled but police were able to swiftly locate him and he was arrested and taken into custody," he explained.
"A 27-year-old man has been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and possession of a knife in a public place. He is due to appear in the Auckland District Court today [Thursday]."
Det Snr Sgt Cox described it as unacceptable and an "appalling act of violence" on an essential worker who was "just going about their job".
He also revealed the attack was on the same driver who was brutally assaulted by three youths in Henderson on August 29, making it the second attack on him in just over three weeks.
On that occasion, the 69-year-old driver was attacked by three teenagers who left him with serious injuries to his face. He alleges they tried to gouge his eyes and that one tried to spit on him.
A Givealittle page was set up after that incident so he had time to recover and could replace his glasses, which were smashed. It raised $26,585.
Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison told Newshub he's "appalled and hugely upset" by the assault.
"Bus drivers are an essential way of keeping our city moving and they should not be subjected to harm under any circumstances," he said.
"Safety is our top priority on the network. We are working very closely with police through a number of measures to put an end to this abhorrent behaviour.
"Thankfully, security measures such as CCTV footage on our buses, trains, ferries and interchanges support NZ Police with prosecuting those that commit these acts."
Police had already been offering support to the driver and his family through Victim Support and will continue that support after this latest incident, Det Snr Sgt Cox said.
"Police will be further increasing their patrols and visibility on and around buses to ensure the safety of bus drivers. Police will also continue to work closely with Auckland Transport on this issue.
"Last week Police and Auckland Transport issued a plea for people to treat drivers with the respect they deserve after a spate of assaults and bus incidents over the past few months."
In the period from Sunday, August 1 to Friday, September 17, there had been 35 reported incidents involving abuse or aggression towards Auckland's bus drivers.