Buzz off with your bee-hind the times bus card


LAST week I moved to Fernhill, and the walk from Mountain Scene HQ to my new home’s been a perfect reminder of why I left London.

Long gone are the smelly, hot days of the tube and now, thankfully, so too’s the infuriating struggle to get out of Shotover Country.

Now, my journey to and from work is nothing but serene, picturesque views of the lake and mountains.

My Instagram’s loving it and so too my fragile millennial ego.

But, because mornings are still not my forte, I do occasionally get the bus into town and I catch the gratifyingly regular Orbus service.

As bus services go, this has to be one of the best routes, runs every 15 minutes and stunning vistas push past the windows.

Alas, as a Pom, it’s time for me to moan.

Otago Regional Council, which runs Orbus, has been busy pushing its new Bee Card, replacing the GoCard from before.

The project’s an expensive one and the aim’s to eventually allow you to use the same — that’s right, the same — card on whatever bus service you use
across New Zealand.

Just tap on, tap off.

How wonderful eh?


If this was 2003.

That’s the year the London Underground introduced the Oyster Card, a quick and easy way to tag on and off instead of joining the long queues at the
ticket machines/desks.

In December 2012, London Underground took a brave new step forward and largely replaced the Oyster by accepting contactless bank cards.

Fast forward eight years and $14.6 million later, and Queenstown’s joining the world of the early 2000s.

You can top up the Bee Card online — although there’s no app available — in a shop or alternatively you can use cash on the bus.

Can you use that handy piece of plastic that everybody has in their pocket, regardless of where in the world you’re from?


Can you use the payment method even accepted at temporary, pop-up stalls at Remarkables Market?

No can do, sir.

Our international visitors may not be here right now, but we’re hoping they’re back soon.

Ensuring they can get around the Wakatipu Basin easily and cheaply should be a key priority — we want them spending money far and wide.

So why are we introducing a specific card for our buses that tourists won’t have?

Why are we introducing one more thing to forget to put in your pocket?

And why are we introducing a needless, outdated piece of technology at the cost of several millions of dollars?

This is not a mere whinge from a Pom who misses home, this is a genuine concern that not much thought has been put into spending our money.

‘‘Aha,’’ you say, ‘‘but this card can be used nationally, unlike your London example.’’

Yes, but since 2012 payWave filtered through to other UK regions, meaning no collective bus card was needed.

And again, I remind you, bank and travel cards are usable not just nationally, but internationally.

The Opal Card was introduced in Sydney in 2012 for their public transport and in 2019 the network was made usable via contactless bank card.

If we’re marketing Queenstown as a tech hub, it’s hard to back that up when our infrastructure’s not yet current … let alone forward-thinking.