School bus operators angry at losing their contracts say the Ministry of Education's tender process is pushing them to bankruptcy and jeopardising the future of services.
But the Ministry is defending its process, saying it was robust and transparent, and separated quality and price.
Ministry of Education figures show that nationwide, four main bus companies - Ritchies, Go Bus, Tranzit and Madge Coachlines - won almost half the tenders and were allocated hundreds of school runs.
However, the bulk of operators received six runs or fewer apiece.
A Murchison school bus operator, who has lost her contract to provide services in the town, fears she will be bankrupt by Christmas.
Belinda Girl has run a school bus service for six years and her business was a finalist in the Nelson Business Awards.
She says she complied completely with safety and quality guidelines but was undercut in the tendering process by two big companies.
The Ministry says the operators who've won new contracts will bring safety, service and a more environmentally friendly fleet.