Small school bus and van operators are worried they can’t compete with large operators and will be cut out of the Government’s new school transport tender system, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“While the Ministry regularly undertakes contract tenders for school transport providers, this tender covers the majority of daily school bus routes and it’s been many years since there was a tender this size.

“Instead of being clear with all operators on how these contracts will be allocated, the Government is keeping quiet. Small operators in some rural communities are worried they could be out of a job as they say the new system favours large operators.

“If these businesses fail then it could impact how children get to and from other community activities, like camps.

“There have been numerous instances where the Ministry of Education has got it wrong when it comes to transport as it just doesn’t seem to understand how school transport operates in isolated areas.

“Associate Minister of Education Jenny Salesa agreed to meet with industry representatives recently to discuss the issue but postponed twice before deciding she was not going to have a meeting. 

“She has failed to communicate to providers on this issue. While it is important Ministers don’t get involved in the operational detail of a tender, they should still be able to discuss the general impact to services and schools and engage with industry on general policy issues.

“There are small operators who are very worried they will have to lose their businesses. The livelihoods of these people are at risk, and the Minister won’t talk to them.

“There is a big gap between the Government’s spin on this issue and what providers say is happening on the ground.

“The Minister needs to front up to school bus operators and answer their questions.”

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