Wellington Regional Council providing Uber rides for stranded bus passengers

Some Wellington commuters left stranded by bus network changes have been given free Uber rides paid for by the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Wellington's network underwent radical changes in July, and the teething issues passengers have experienced are yet to ease.

As a result, there have been rare situations in which Greater Wellington staff members have booked Ubers for passengers who were in for a lengthy wait.

Greater Wellington spokesperson Stephen Heath said the organisation has placed council officers and contractors at selected bus hubs, and they are permitted to book Ubers in certain situations.

"Greater Wellington has funded a very limited number [of Ubers] in situations of significant need - such as for the elderly, for people going to hospital and so forth where the passenger was in for a considerable wait for the next bus," Mr Heath said.

"It's not a service we generally offer and it will cease once our promised improvements are made to the new services, people become familiar with them and we are confident that someone in great need won't be significantly disadvantaged by the roll out."

Mr Heath said the council made the decision early on to provide as much support as possible around the city, given the disruptive changes made to the bus network.

The staff they have placed at bus hubs in Kilbirnie and outside Wellington Hospital are trained in conflict resolution and dealing with angry people.

On Wednesday morning, two staff members in Newtown were guiding passengers to the right buses, updating them on when their bus would arrive, and even walking people to the hospital under the shelter of an umbrella.

"In addition to extensive advertising and online and printed information, we provided personal assistance to passengers," Mr Heath said.

"[They are] providing information on the new bus routes and generally helping people to get to their destinations.

"It's a service we will continue to provide for a while yet, we have no cut-off date."

Mr Heath said reactions at bus stops has been mixed but they are "universal in their thanks for the help we provided at roll out and continue to provide".

Justin Hall, a former bus driver and now regular passenger, said having staff at the bus stops can be helpful.

"But they can't be at every bus stop. They can't help everyone out," he said.

"They can't help that. Particularly for elderly people.

"It doesn't fix the situation. It doesn't solve things. They need to fix the teething problems and get things back to normal."

An Uber driver, who did not wish to be named, said he caught the bus into Wellington from Miramar for his studies.

He had noticed more people turning to Uber to get to work, rather than waiting around for a full bus.

"The new routes. Nobody has figured out the new routes so far, so they try to be safe by taking an Uber."

Despite the issues with the service, and some passengers saying they've turned to Uber or taxis as an alternative to the bus network, Mr Heath said patronage is steady.

He said the network carried about 90,000 journeys each day and there had been no fall in numbers since making the changes.

By Ben Strang

rnz.co.nz

Source: rnz.co.nz



Powerball struck for fourth time in a month as winner scoops $7.2 million

Powerball was struck for the fourth time in a month tonight when a punter from Silverdale north of Auckland scooped $7.2 million.

The prize is made up of $7 million from Powerball First Division and $200,000 from Lotto First Division.

The winning ticket was sold at Pak'nSave Silverdale in Silverdale. 

It's the fourth time in as many weeks that Powerball First Division has been struck, following on from late-August’s $5 million Powerball win by a Christchurch couple. Those lucky winners plan to use their winnings to go on the trip of a lifetime to Italy. 

Four other Lotto players will also be celebrating tonight after each winning $200,000 with Lotto First Division. 

The winning Lotto tickets were sold at Kelson General Store in Lower Hutt, Richmond Night N Day in Nelson, Ilam New World in Christchurch and New World Gore.  

Meanwhile, Strike Four was won by two players in Waikato and Tauranga, who each take home $50,000. Both those winning Strike tickets were sold on MyLotto.

Lotto Powerball (file picture).
Lotto Powerball (file picture). Source: Lotto


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Eighteen kilo meth import in printer toner cartridges sees Canadian man jailed in Auckland

A Canadian man was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years’ imprisonment in the Manukau District Court today for importing and possessing 17.9 kilograms of methamphetamine that was found in printer toner cartridges and had a street value of up to $9 million. 

Jingyuan Zhang, 28, will serve at least half of this term before facing deportation.

Zhang and his travel companion arrived at Auckland Airport from Canada in January and Zhang stayed in temporary accommodation in south-east Auckland. 

In March, Customs examined a mail consignment from the United States linked to Zhang, locating finely powdered methamphetamine in 12 printer toner cartridges. Customs monitored the delivery of the cartridges and arrested Zhang.

Michael Blades, Customs’ Acting Group Manager Intelligence, Investigations & Enforcement, says renting short-term accommodation to receive illegal drugs is a known tactic of criminal syndicates.

He says if someone has concerns about anyone renting short-term accommodation and making out-of-the ordinary inquiries about receiving packages, they can be reported in confidence to 0800 4 CUSTOMS or to Crimestoppers.

Customs says based on the New Zealand Drug Harm Index, the potential social harm avoided through this seizure is estimated to be $22.1 million.

Methamphetamine was found in toner cartridges. Source: Supplied

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Most read: Auckland bar responds to Pink's outburst: 'It was a bit of a shock'

This story was first pubksihed on Wednesday September 12.

The pop star wasn’t happy her group wasn’t allowed into Deadshot, and let her millions of followers know. Source: Seven Sharp

After seven world class concerts Pink decided to celebrate and head to Auckland's food and beverage hotspot of Ponsonby on Tuesday.

Pink’s first choice of bar was Deadshot, but unfortunately, her large group was turned away.

Soon afterwards, the whole world heard about it when the pop star Tweeted about the encounter to her millions of followers.

After the unwanted publicity, manager Heather Garland spoke to Seven Sharp.

“One of the crew came in earlier in the day and spoke to Brian over the bar and he told them we just couldn’t take a group that big, and offered to find them somewhere else," she said.

“But they showed up anyway and we couldn’t fit them in.”

Garland said they simply couldn’t cater for 30 people.

“They just went on their way and we didn’t realise there was a problem.”

Pink then took to Twitter saying, “She’s been to some cool bars around the world and Deadshot is not one of them.”

Garland said it came as a bit of a shock, but was pleased by the support they had been shown.

“We never even saw her, we didn’t even know she was part of the group.”

But when Deadshot couldn’t cater for them, they went across the road to the Revelry bar.

Alex Dunn was about to shut up shop when the superstar and her crew dropped in.

“She came to the bar herself, so we were just sitting down together discussing what cocktail she was going for.”

It turns out Pink likes pink drinks so she had a blush negroni.

Dunn says, ‘It wasn’t intentional but I had a feeling that she might like the colour and that I might get a few extra bonus points.”

Her posts here were a little kinder calling the Revelry bar, “The perfect place in Auckland.”

Pink got down to some Kiwi tunes and the party ended around 2am.


Russian troops sweep across Siberia in war games with China amid tensions with US

Hundreds of thousands Russian troops have swept across Siberia in the nation's largest ever war games also joined by China - a powerful show of burgeoning military ties between Moscow and Beijing amid their tensions with the US.

Moscow said the weeklong Vostok (East) 2018 manoeuvres will span vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific Oceans and involve nearly 300,000 Russian troops - nearly one-third of the country's one-million-strong military. They will feature more than 1,000 aircraft, about 36,000 tanks and other military vehicles and 80 warships.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has described the drills as even bigger than the country's largest Cold War-era exercise called Zapad 1981 that put NATO allies on edge.

A retired Russian general said that the giant war games come as a warning to the US against ramping up pressure on Russia.

"The manoeuvres are aimed at deterring the aggressive intentions of the US and NATO," Retired General Leonid Ivashov said. He was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the drills are "also a response to the US sanctions."

China is sending about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft to join the drills at a Siberian firing range, a significant deployment that reflects its shift toward a full-fledged military alliance with Russia. Mongolia also has sent a military contingent.

Asked if the US is worried about a possible military alliance between Russia and China, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday that, "I think that nations act out of their interests. I see little in the long term that aligns Russia and China."

As the manoeuvres kicked off, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia on Tuesday to attend an economic forum in Vladivostok. 

President Vladimir Putin treated Xi to pancakes with caviar and shots of vodka in a show of their warm rapport.

Moscow and Beijing have forged what they described as a "strategic partnership," expressing their shared opposition to the "unipolar" world, the term they use to describe perceived US global domination. However, the military drills they had until now were far smaller in scale, reflecting China's caution about alliances.

Some experts pointed out that the US helped spawn closer Russia-China military ties by labelling them strategic competitors.

"They feel they need to embrace to deal with the increasingly high pressure and containment from the US," said Yue Gang, a military expert and retired Chinese army colonel.

He noted that China feels that the Washington's hostile attitude and actions, such as deploying the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, relieve it of any need to take US views into consideration when deepening strategic trust with Moscow.

"The war games have laid a foundation for China and Russia to enhance cooperation on international arena and will lift the combat proficiency of both sides," he said.

The Chinese media touted the Chinese involvement in the manoeuvres as the country's largest-ever dispatch of forces abroad for war games.

Some noted that the People's Liberation Army, which hasn't fought a war since the attempted invasion of Vietnam in 1979, is keen to learn from Russia's experience in the Syrian campaign, where it tested its latest weapons and tactics.

Around 300,000 troops will take part in the Vostok war games, as well as 1000 aircraft and 900 tanks. Source: 1 NEWS


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