School camp saved after last-minute cancellation

Heidi Hayward. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Heidi Hayward. PHOTO: ODT FILES
About 100 Dunedin children came close to having their school camp that starts today cancelled because of a bus company pulling out of transportation at late notice.

In the end, another company noticed pleas for help and saved the trip to Waihola.

Dunedin North Intermediate School principal Heidi Hayward had been left stunned when Go Bus Transport advised by email on Saturday morning it could no longer fulfil its booking for four classes of pupils.

The pupils have a one-night camp at Waihola, returning tomorrow.

Go Bus cited lack of driver availability, because of illness, as the reason for the cancellation.

The school then scrambled to make alternative arrangements.

Calls for help were answered by East Coast Passenger Services on Saturday afternoon.

"East Coast Passenger Services phoned to say they could do it," Ms Hayward said.

She was concerned about the process undertaken by Go Bus, particularly that the company seemed to be comfortable with leaving the problem largely in the hands of the school.

Go Bus Transport has apologised.

A staff member said the 11th-hour solution was good news for the school, but the company would be following up internally, "as this situation does not meet our normal expectations or standards".

"We are very sorry and we will be contacting the school separately to offer our apologies."

Ms Hayward said she might not normally have looked at her emails until Sunday night and felt it was unacceptable she did not at least get a phone call.

The booking had been made in December.

In such circumstances she would have expected Go Bus to be proactive about finding a solution.

"I’ve been teaching for 25 years. I have never, ever had this happen."

She received three emails from the company on Saturday morning — one advising of the booking cancellation and apologising for this, another suggesting a couple of options and a third saying the company would be in touch.

The last one came after Ms Hayward asked if the company was "leaving this all in our court".

She informed Go Bus Transport her morning had been extremely stressful and that she had to abandon all her family commitments.

The four classes are due to be taken to Waihola this morning.

Two other classes with about 50 pupils are booked in with Go Bus to head to the Waiora Scout Camp.

Ms Hayward said she only received reassurance Go Bus would provide buses for the 50 pupils after having to request it.

"My real issue with it is, I mean you can’t help it if people are sick, but don’t just send an email saying sorry and leave it," Ms Hayward said.

There should have at least been a phone call from the company.

"It doesn’t take rocket science to work out a school camp doesn’t come together overnight and that we will have already ordered the food and booked the accommodation.

"So there was potentially a huge cost to the whole school involved in cancelling a service."

Go Bus business development director Russell Turnbull said it "apologised profusely" for the inconvenience and could certainly do better communication in the future.

About 15 staff out of nearly 90 were on sickness leave because of Covid-19 or other illnesses.