Due to an increase in bus drivers being assaulted and verbally abused, Auckland Transport (AT) and NZ Police have joined forces to create the Be Kind to Bus Drivers - Kia Atawhai i ngā Kai Taraiwa Pahi campaign.
As part of the initiative, police officers have been boarding buses and patrolling bus stops throughout Tāmaki Makaurau.
Pirihimana (police) are also working with AT to deliver additional de-escalation training to bus drivers, where they will be taught how to diffuse negative situations, to further support their safety, and the safety of passengers.
To supplement these activities, AT’s transport officers will provide more presence throughout areas that have seen an increase in anti-social behaviours.
Since 1 August there has been 35 reported incidents involving abuse or aggression towards Auckland’s bus drivers – despite low patronage due to Alert Level 4.
Mayor Phil Goff says bus drivers working as essential workers during the COVID-19 lockdowns are doing the community a service.
“They are putting themselves at risk and don’t deserve the additional pressure of a minority of people being abusive towards them,” he says.
“I support the Police taking a zero-tolerance approach towards anti-social behaviour by those who think it is OK to abuse or threaten others.
“I know most people in the community appreciate and respect those who are providing essential services and I ask that at this difficult time everyone makes the effort to be considerate towards others.”
Senior Sergeant Mark Clayton says kāore i whakaaetia ki aua whanonga (such behaviour will not be tolerated).
“From our engagement with bus drivers we’ve heard stories of verbal abuse and assaults which are totally unacceptable. We want to assure bus drivers and members of the public that we won’t put up with any anti-social behaviour.
“Our bus drivers are an essential part of what makes the city move and they should be able to carry out their duties safely every day.”
AT’s Chief Executive Shane Ellison says the safety of bus drivers and passengers is paramount.
“Safety is our top priority on the network. We want drivers to know that we are doing everything we can to support them in their roles and that they are haumaru (safe).”
He adds that the recent rise in attacks shouldn’t deter anyone from using public transport.
“Not only do we have transport officers, but there is CCTV on all public transport in Auckland. We work closely with police on reported incidents and treat these matters with utmost concern.”
Bus driver Selina Jackson says being treated with respect is a basic request to ask of others.
“We’re just ordinary people, we’re just doing our job. We want to enjoy our job and we want to get you to where you want to go, when you want to get there.”
Her colleague, Khan Netzler, says when someone is verbally abusive, it has a detrimental impact on him and his driving.
“It can distract you and it makes you feel bad about yourself.
“As a bus driver I’d like people to think of me as a human as well.”
Bus driver Adrian Chand says on the contrary, when people are kind, it makes the world of difference.
“When someone is polite and kind to me, it makes my day just amazing…just thinking about that comment makes my day go very smooth.”
Police want to remind bus drivers who at any point feel threatened to call Police on 111 immediately. Police are there to help and will not tolerate anti-social behaviour.
He waka eke noa – we are in this together.