For all those who don’t receive or read the Hawke’s Bay Today, this is the original, unabridged version of my letter that appears in today’s (Monday 29 July) “Letters to the Editor”:
“I was shocked and stunned the other day. I saw one of Napier City Council’s controversial Art Deco “Bertie’s Buses” with a passenger on board. Yes, an actual passenger!
Since their arrival they have been a bit of a joke around town. With Marine Parade closed due to the stormwater system upgrade, they were forced to trundle along Hastings Street devoid of passengers time after time. The poor drivers must have been beside themselves, because no-one else was!
A Council spokesman said he expected passenger numbers to increase with the reopening of Marine Parade. Yeah, right. It appears, however, that my shock was caused by fares on the buses being reduced by up to 50% for the school holidays.
Finally, Napier’s ratepayers may get some money back on the buses they got no say in purchasing and the subsequent $165,000 repair bill (those were some very expensive loose wires and belts that needed fixing, CEO Taylor) to get them roadworthy, you may say. Alas, no.
A quiet rebranding exercise had taken place at the Council. Gone was any trace of the word, voice or image of “Bertie” in relation to the buses. The website had to be revised, hundreds of tickets had to be redesigned and printed and even the taped commentary that narrates the buses’ journey (the drivers have to stick to the same route and speed to make sure the commentary matches the scenery, even when they are constantly and completely passenger-less) voiced by “Bertie” had to be re-recorded. Everything now strictly refers to the service as the “Deco City Discoverer”. It almost sounds like something out of George Orwell’s “1984”, with the Ministry of Truth revising history, doesn’t it?
The reason for all the revisions and even more expense on the buses? “Bertie” is standing for mayor. It was thought it could be seen as influencing voters if his image was pasted everywhere other than on official election hoardings. Then again, he could just be trying to increase his chances of election by distancing himself from these wheeled albatrosses (‘turkeys’?) around the council’s neck. (This is the part they abridged)
That might be a bit of a tough task for any incumbent Napier City Councillor wishing to stand again in this year’s election. As the publicly available council minutes would indicate all current councillors had a say in their purchase and all the troubles that followed.
Use you votes wisely, Napier. You deserve far better!”