‘It’s about children’, not ‘politics’

Andersons Bay School principal Pauline Simpson is concerned about the government’s decision to...
Andersons Bay School principal Pauline Simpson is concerned about the government’s decision to stop funding for school road safety projects. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A month after a child was dragged along the road by a car outside her school, a Dunedin principal is upset the government is pulling funding for road safety.

Andersons Bay School principal Pauline Simpson questioned the government’s priorities after learning road safety initiatives outside her school were in doubt after a direction made by the transport minister this week.

"The real question is how much do we value a child’s life?

"It’s not about politics, it’s about children.

"Road safety is a crucial component for any school environment. We have to think of the children’s wellbeing."

Her comments come after an Andersons Bay School pupil was hit by a car and dragged about 3m along the road last month.

While being dragged, the girl’s bag twisted around her and got lodged between her head and the road, potentially saving her life.

Ms Simpson said the safety work planned outside the school, which would have improved the visibility of pedestrians, fitted in well with the council’s recent speed limit reductions from 50kmh to 30kmh.

The Dunedin City Council said safety initiatives outside South Dunedin schools, worth a total of $2.6million, were in doubt because of the new government direction.

Earlier this week, the government asked NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi to halt work on many projects funded through the Climate Emergency Response Fund, as Transport Minister Simeon Brown signalled a change in approach away from focusing on people driving less as a way to reduce emissions.

A council spokesman confirmed two work programmes were affected by the change in Dunedin — the George St/Bank St improvements, and part of its schools work in South Dunedin.

"We were planning to improve intersections and bus stops, and install safer crossing points, around South Dunedin’s schools."

The South Dunedin schools work had two parts; the first part was the planned installation of safety improvements for roads outside schools in South Dunedin and was affected by the announcement, he said.

About $400,000 — 90% funded by Waka Kotahi through Transport Choices — had been spent out of a budget of $3m.

The second part of the South Dunedin school’s work, where "we work with schools to help children in active methods of getting to school", was not affected.

Tainui School principal Shelley Wilde said although her school managed to get its improvements completed, which included a raised pathway at the school crossing, it had been a long journey.

The work also complemented the walkway and cycleway alongside the school crossing.

"Our journey started about 10 years ago, and we were fortunate to benefit from council funding recently.

"Anything that makes things safer for our children is vital.

"It is short-sighted to stop projects such as these, we all need to move to modes of travel that are healthy, whether it’s walking, biking, or scootering."

Ms Wilde was pleased the education programmes would remain, but felt it needed to be done in tandem with infrastructure improvements.

"It’s about the connectedness of the approach."