Media release

Statement on living wages for bus drivers

Thursday 27 May 2021

Attributable to Chair of the Otago Regional Council, Andrew Noone:

At a public excluded meeting in Queenstown today, ORC passed a number of resolutions related to paying Orbus bus drivers the living wage. ORC has agreed to pay for the living wage for bus drivers to be backdated to 1 July 2020.

Implementing the backpay and the living wage ongoingly will now need to be confirmed in contract negotiations with our public transport operators before the living wage can take effect.

Because of the way transport activities are funded, there will be no impact on rates from this decision in year one of the Long-term Plan.

We recognise that driving buses is a challenging and at times stressful job. Our drivers were essential workers during lockdown, they’ve adapted to changes like the mask mandate, and we know they’ve put up with higher rates of abuse in the last year. We’re pleased to support bus drivers with today’s decisions.

The resolutions passed today are as follows:


That Council:

  • Receives this report.


  • Notes the key principles of the draft funding proposal outlined in this report that will be shared with Council’s bus contractors.


  • Agrees to pay an increase for the base wage rate for bus drivers delivering Council’s contracted bus services that aligns with the 2021 Living Wage from 1 September 2021 (conditional on Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency co-investment).


  • Notes that Council's bus operators will be eligible to claim the additional funding subject to:
  1. confirmation to Council that a change to employment terms has been made to enable the bus operator to pay its bus drivers at or above a wage floor that aligns with the living wage from the Effective Date; and
  2. completion of contract variations between Council and its bus operators to record the agreed terms and conditions relevant to claims for the additional funding.
  • Notes the risks and mitigations set out in the report.


  • Notes the estimated cost of the funding proposal in the report (Option 2) on the basis of the 2020 and 2021 Living Wage rate is about [redacted due to commercial sensitivity] per annum (gross) / ORC contribution 49% of this sum, and that the annual cost will likely increase as the Living Wage changes.  This would be funded through the transport reserves.


  • Notes that the funding required to support additional payments to bus operators for a period between 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 is not expressly included in the 2020-21 Annual Plan.


  • Agrees that additional funding required to support recommendations 3 and 4 will need to be included in the 2021 – 2031 Long Term Plan when it is adopted as outlined in this paper.


  • Notes that Waka Kotahi formal approval to fund a 51% share of the cost of the funding proposal is to be confirmed.


Moved:            Cr Hobbs

Seconded:       Cr Forbes



1)             Agrees to pay an increase for the base wage rate for bus drivers delivering Council’s contracted bus services that aligns with the 2019 and 2020 Living Wage from the Effective Date of 1 July 2020.

Moved:                Cr Wilson

Seconded:           Cr Noone