Auckland Transport and the police have joined forces for a zero tolerance campaign amid an increase in bus drivers being assaulted and verbally abused during the Level 4 lockdown.
As part of the initiative, Be Kind to Bus Drivers - Kia Atawhai i ngā Kai Taraiwa Pahi, police officers have been boarding buses and patrolling stops throughout the country to deter anti-social behaviour.
Officers are also working with AT to deliver additional de-escalation training to bus drivers by learning how to diffuse negative situations, to further support their safety, and the safety of passengers.
AT transport officers will also have a greater presence in areas which have seen “an increase in anti-social behaviours”, police and AT said in a joint press release.
There have been 35 reported incidents involving abuse or aggression towards Auckland bus drivers since August 1.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff says bus drivers are "putting themselves at risk and don’t deserve the additional pressure of a minority of people being abusive towards them.
"I support the police taking a zero tolerance approach towards anti-social behaviour by those who think it is OK to abuse or threaten others," he said.
"I know most people in the community appreciate and respect those who are providing essential services and I ask that at this difficult time everyone makes the effort to be considerate towards others."
Senior Sergeant Mark Clayton says officers have heard "stories of verbal abuse and assaults which are totally unacceptable".
"Our bus drivers are an essential part of what makes the city move and they should be able to carry out their duties safely every day," Clayton said.
AT chief executive Shane Ellison says the safety of bus drivers and passengers is "our top priority on the network".
"We want drivers to know that we are doing everything we can to support them in their roles and that they are haumaru (safe)," Ellison said.
He says the recent rise in attacks should not deter anyone from using public transport, however.
“Not only do we have transport officers, but there is CCTV on all public transport in Auckland. We work closely with police on reported incidents and treat these matters with utmost concern.”
Bus driver Selina Jackson says being treated with respect is a basic request to ask of others.
"We’re just ordinary people, we’re just doing our job. We want to enjoy our job and we want to get you to where you want to go, when you want to get there," she said.
Bus drivers who are feeling threatened have been urged to call police on 111 immediately.