'They started kicking and punching me' - Auckland Transport reviewing safety procedures following increase in attacks on bus drivers

Auckland Transport (AT) is reviewing its safety procedures in response to an increase in the number of attacks on bus drivers.

Over the last two years, there have been 36 assaults against AT drivers - a figure the transport service admits is too high.

AT bus service manager Darek Koper said "we need to do more and we are working with bus operators to do a lot more to reduce the risk, to minimise the risks the drivers are facing".

Most recently, an Auckland bus driver was attacked by three thugs on her route in Māngere three weeks ago.

The driver, who was afraid to be identified, told 1 NEWS she was physically assaulted after refusing to hand over the vehicle's cash box, which contained around $60.

"I kicked and punched back but with three of them against me, they overpowered me and threw me off the bus," she said.

"I had bruises on my legs, on my stomach."

According to FIRST Union, which represents the majority of bus drivers, nearly half of their members nationwide have been attacked either verbally or physically.

"We need to have AT and council and the companies seriously sit down together and talk about what they're gonna do," said Emir Hodzic, FIRST Union's transport organiser.

AT says it's taking steps to improve safety for bus drivers, including rolling out CCTV on its entire fleet, giving drivers training to deal with difficult passengers, and putting security guards on more risky routes.

It's also considering operating cashless vehicles.

However, the bus driver says change can't come soon enough.

"A lot of our other drivers have been attacked as well, and some of them have even resigned because of it. I'm thinking of resigning because I fear for my safety," she said.

Police are continuing to investigate the recent attack and say they have strong lines of inquiry.

- By Andrew Macfarlane

A union says half its membership has been physically and verbally assaulted on the job, and more needs to be done. Source: 1 NEWS

Aussie politician slams Andrew Little, after Justice Minister's swipe at deportation laws

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has taken a swipe at New Zealand's contributions to the region's security after its justice minister criticised Australia's deportation regime.

New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little said Australia's deportation laws lacked "humanitarian ideals" and were the product of "venal" politics, in a report by the ABC on Tuesday into the expulsion of New Zealand citizens.

Mr Dutton today called the comments disappointing.

"I hope that he doesn't repeat them," he told 2GB.

"There's a lot that we do for New Zealand ... New Zealand don't contribute really anything to the defence effort that we've got where we're trying to surveil boats that might be on their way to New Zealand.

Justice Minister Andrew Little.
Justice Minister Andrew Little. Source: 1 NEWS

"So I hope that Andrew Little reflects a little more on the relationship between Australia and New Zealand where we do a lot of the heavy lifting."

Hundreds of New Zealanders have had their visas cancelled in Australia since stricter deportation laws came into place in 2014.

Some have spent the bulk of their lives in Australia and have no connection with New Zealand, raising questions about the rights being afforded to Kiwi ex-pats.

Mr Little this week also criticised Australian authorities for cancelling the visas of, and deporting, New Zealanders who had been extradited to Australia before their trials were completed - saying their victims weren't seeing justice.

On Tuesday, a 17-year-old New Zealand boy being held in a detention centre in Melbourne won a visa appeal and was released.

That followed complaints by New Zealand's acting prime minister that his placement with adult detainees breached UN agreements.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says New Zealanders unhappy in detention can return home whenever they want. Source: 1 NEWS


Booming provincial areas help keep economy afloat as cities start to slow down

Booming provincial areas are helping the economy as cities start to slow down, a group of Infometrics economists have found.

Infometrics' chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan says provincial economies are driving growth in the economy, building on the recovery of dairy prices in 2016, and spending activity is outpacing activity in the main centres.

"We're seeing the payoff from the last couple of years where we've had strong commodity prices across the board and recovering dairy prices as well, and that's leading to more spending out in the provincial economies," Mr Kiernan said.

In the Bay of Plenty, kiwifruit exports are flourishing, which is helping provincial towns such as Te Puke.

However, there are also risks to provincial areas, including major labour shortages - particularly for seasonal workers.

Locals say they are noticing a shortage of workers as businesses continue to thrive, especially in the kiwifruit industry.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers CEO Nikki Johnson says the fruit is popular overseas and she sees no sign of it slowing down.

"All the money that we generate from our export earnings is returned directly to the communities here - through the growers, through the packhouses, through the support industries or through the communities we operate in," Ms Johnson said.

New Zealand shipped exports worth $54 billion overseas - an 11 per cent rise on the year before.

However, household costs are continuing to rise and it's hitting people in the pocket across the country.

Mr Kiernan says the cities are slowing down, particularly when it comes to migration, house prices and growth.

Infometrics predicts GDP growth of two per cent between now and 2021.

"It's certainly not doom and gloom. We're not talking about a recession, but more of a slowdown," Mr Kiernan said.

The findings come from Infometric economists, who predict a cooling of the economy next year. Source: 1 NEWS