Tranzit managing director confident no Mitsubishi link in bus crashes

The managing director of the bus company that owned the vehicle involved in Wednesday's crash near Inglewood, does not believe an investigation will find a problem with Mitsubishi buses.

A 69-year-old man died following the accident in Taranaki, which was carrying students from Inglewood High School at the time.

Yesterday the Transport Minister, Phil Twyford, announced the Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency will investigate three recent bus crashes, all involving Mitsubishi Fusos.

The three crashes in Rangitikei, Mt Ruapehu and central Taranaki, killed two people and injured several others and all took place within a fortnight.

Tranzit Coachline managing director Peter Snelgrove said while the buses are all Fusos, the bus involved in Taranaki was a larger MP model.

"Once the Serious Crash Unit, the CVIU (Commercial Vehicle Enforcement) inspect all the vehicles, it won't be a Mitsubishi problem," he said.

Mr Snelgrove said while the cause of the crash was not yet confirmed, he was sure all of Tranzit's buses were safe.

"We're 100 percent confident in our fleet maintenance, we have a stringent maintenance programme.

"We knew within minutes of the accident, [because] all the vehicles are electronically GPS monitored so we know the speed, the direction, what happened, except what the driver was doing, we know everything else," he said.

He said an investigation was still underway, but the data they had received from the vehicle showed no sign of speeding at the time of the crash.

When asked for comment on the investigation, NZTA said it could not speculate on what could have contributed to any of the crashes, while police investigations were still underway.

"Any issues which arise from these investigations will be addressed by the Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency, and reported back to the Minister of Transport.

"The Minister has made it clear that the facts related to these three crashes must be established before talking about any response," said the statement.

The latest incident saw a school bus crash in Taranaki, leaving the driver dead in what may have been a medical event.
Source: 1 NEWS

Queenstown Airport may double number of flights

Queenstown locals are up in arms over the proposal to double the number of flights to and from the town's airport.

The number of flights in and out of Queenstown each year may have to expand from 21,000 to 41,600 to cope with the expected 2.5 million passengers that will be travelling to and from the resort by 2045.

But locals, like prominent businessman Eion Edgar, say the noise created by the airport was already impacting the quality of life for nearby residents.

"I'm not alone," Mr Edgar said.

"I haven't struck one person that disagrees with the view that enough's enough.

"If you have too many more people, your experience - whether it's on a skifield, downtown, whatever - is unpleasant. So ... it's just being practical."

Former Queenstown councillor Kirsty Sharpe said the noise of planes taking off and landing already made life unpleasant from the deck of her Kelvin Heights home.

"The whole community's been caught almost with its pants down - how do we cope with this growth?" she said.

"We feel we've got enough traffic going on at the airport right now and we don't want to see it more than doubled in the future."

The town was already struggling to cope with the number of visitors, she said.

But her opinion was in contrast to that of Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd.

"I'm in the camp of saying we should aspire to have sustainable future growth," he said.

But he said there was no right number of flights and that was why the airport was having the conversation with locals.

"I think we all, as a community, need to take a deep breath," Mr Budd said.

"And actually have the conversation. What is it that we want and what does sustainable growth look like?"

Queenstown Airport chief executive Colin Keel said the airport was attempting that and was simply informing the public about what was forecast to arrive in the town in future.

The outcome of consultation was not a foregone conclusion.

"That's why this is very much a proposal because it needs to be shaped and this is the first step amongst many I would suspect before we get to some type of answer," Mr Keel said.

The proposal presented the airport's best solution to impending growth and was not about ramping up operations, he said.

"What I would ask people to think about ... is 30 years out and what would be acceptable in 30 years. What is the kind of environment we want as residents and we want for our visitors? And that's really the kind of conversation we're prompting," he said.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said it was an important conversation and he was open-minded about the outcome and the future of the airport and town.

Consultation on the plan closes on 20 August.

Flight lands at Queenstown Airport. Source: 1 NEWS


Taranaki bypass could be devastating to native bat population, DOC says

A proposed $200m bypass road over Taranaki's Mount Messenger could devastate the local population of long-tail bats, DOC warns.

Hearings about the bypass have been taking place since the beginning of the month, The Taranaki Daily News reports, and DOC on Wednesday talked about potential ecological effects.

Dr Colin O'Donnell presented evidence that the bats in the area are already at risk and that construction could severely harm their populations.

"The effects of the project are potentially catastrophic to long tail bats in particular the felling on breeding trees during road construction may lead to the extinction of the Mt Messenger bat population," he said.

Bats are present at 94 per cent of the surveyed locations within the proposed bypass area, Dr O'Donnell said.

"Breeding roost trees are rare with specialised features that tend to be 100 years old and are almost irreplaceable except over very long time frames.

"Adverse affects will occur when trees are destroyed even if the bats are not in them at the time of felling.

"Bats don't just change roost on a whim they follow a traditional routine, that is so strict they often use the same tree, on the same day, each year."

A report by Wildland Consultants Ltd in May held showed there are concerns around whether NZTA can sufficiently offset the ecological effects of the road.

Of the 1190 public submissions received about the bypass, only 20 opposed it.

There are concerns the SH3 bypass at Mt Messenger could impact the population of long-tail bats in the area.
There are concerns the SH3 bypass at Mt Messenger could impact the population of long-tail bats in the area. Source: NZTA/DOC