During the Second World War, long-distance bus routes were cut by voluntary and compulsory restrictions – to about 40% of pre-war levels by 1943. Meanwhile the prices of petrol, tyres and spare parts rose by about one-third.
The first woman driver of long-distance buses, in the 1930s, may have been Jean Hunter of Hunter’s DOT (Dunedin–Ōamaru–Timaru) Motor Services, or Amy Newby of the Hamilton-based Newby’s Motors.
Amy Newby taught herself to drive by sneaking into the garage in the evenings and driving service cars from one side to the other. She took her test on her 15th birthday. ‘The poor inspector was so nervous he told me when to brake, when to signal a turn etc. When we arrived back at the garage, I attempted to take the narrow entrance in 2nd gear – clipped the benzene pump and hit a concrete post. I don’t think he wanted to repeat the experience as all he said to me was “I think you need a little more practice – come over here and get your licence”.’1
Many male bus drivers fought in the Second World War. Women took over office and driving work in many family-owned companies, but most stopped driving after the war. Some who continued met hostility from male drivers. Hilda Jamieson of Stratford’s Jamieson Motors recalled, ‘You’d see them get ready to wave, [then] turn their heads away. Wouldn’t recognise a woman! People in motor cars would look up and Oh my gosh! It’s a woman driving the bus! They’d all be looking out their windows.’2
New Zealand’s worst road crash
New Zealand’s coach fleet was in a bad condition in the two decades after the Second World War. The country’s worst road accident highlighted this. In 1963, the brakes failed on a coach crossing the Brynderwyn range, and 15 of the 35 passengers were killed.
A popular innovation at the top of the market was the 24-seater Luxury Landliner with a refreshment service on the Auckland–Wellington run from 1948 (daily from 1952). Its route was calculated so it did not coincide with the main trunk railway line – but it was not allowed to pick up or put down passengers en route between the two cities.
In New Zealand colloquial speech, a ‘tiki tour’ is a scenic tour to a number of places, or a roundabout way to get to a particular place. Originally, Tiki Tours were the low-cost coach tours the Government Tourist Bureau started in 1946. They initially went just to the hotels owned by the government’s Tourist Hotel Corporation, but developed into New Zealand-wide tours.
Coach companies put together package tours to attract tourists – both New Zealanders and foreign tourists. Numbers of tourists from overseas increased from about 25,000 in 1960 to 48,000 in 1964.
Competition from cars and planes
In the 1950s the number of cars doubled, and the number of coaches fell markedly – from about 700 in 1956, to 466 a decade later. Air travel became much more competitive in the 1960s, and cheap second-hand cars were imported from Japan from the 1980s. More people used their own cars for long-distance trips.
Over these decades, as passenger numbers fell and services were cut, coach companies relied more on freight, mail and newspaper delivery contracts, and school bus runs. Many coaches carried passengers in the front half, and parcels, mail and newspapers in the back. These ‘composites’ or ‘freighters’ were common from the 1950s to the 1980s – before competition from courier firms.