New bus service: “We want to be the local guys”
”You have to start somewhere.”
An enthusiastic Harry Albert was talking about launching his new bus company.
The 57-year-old former miner set up Otago Coach Services, aiming to compete with large, internationally owned bus companies.
Mr Albert, who is a geologist by trade, started GeoTourism NZ in 2019, specializing in Otago geo-heritage tours.
It went into hibernation due to Covid-19 and now that New Zealand’s borders have reopened, it will start again.
Starting Otago Coach Services was about “looking ahead” and branching out for a post-Covid operating environment, he said.
Mr. Albert spent 25 years in the mining industry, including seven years working for BHP’s iron ore division in Western Australia.
Most recently, he worked as an excavator operator at Kai Point Coal in Kaitangata before moving to Ranfurly, where he now lives, to start his tourism business.
There has been “a lot of upheaval” in the local transport industry over the past 12 months, particularly after the closure of Otago Road Services, Mr Albert said.
This company, which operated in Dunedin for 74 years, lost its contracts with the Ministry of Education to Christchurch’s Go Bus company.
Mr Albert hoped to fill the void left by Otago Road Services and “take on international businesses and suppliers”.
”We feel there is a need in the community for us. . . we want to be the local guys.”
The company was working with the University of Otago’s Department of Geology taking students into the field and wanted to expand its customer base to include schools and sports clubs. It would also provide GeoTourism NZ tours.
The company started with three buses and had two more it could call upon if there was demand.
Mr. Albert acknowledged that inflationary pressures and labor shortages made it difficult to start a business. Lack of available drivers was also always going to be a concern, especially for a new business, he said.
Mr. Albert believed that if the drivers were paid what they deserved, instead of the bare minimum, they would be retained.
Otago Coach Services had just two employees at present – Mr Albert and driver Kim Hayward – and would be looking for more soon.