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The Dunedin City Council has waded in on the fight against the Otago Regional Council, for a public bus route that better serves school pupils living on the Otago Peninsula.
Cr Aaron Hawkins said he would put a resolution before the city council’s next meeting on May 1, in support of the affected schools, parents and pupils.
The resolution, moved by Cr Hawkins and seconded by Cr Christine Garey, asks the DCC to acknowledge the concern of the peninsula communities around bus access for intermediate and high school pupils; and calls on the Otago Regional Council to accommodate their request for minor amendments to schedules and routes.
"We’re expecting widespread, if not unanimous, support,’’ Cr Hawkins said.
"The ORC aren’t being asked to crack the Enigma code. They’re being asked to make minor changes to timetables and routes, to help get our kids to school safely.
"We’re spending tens of millions of dollars on road safety improvements on the peninsula.
"Increasing the amount of traffic before and after school is both avoidable, and counterproductive.’’
The community is asking the ORC for three minor changes to the peninsula bus service.
They have called for a slightly altered route for two of the daily buses in the morning and mid-afternoon, that would allow pupils to get to and from school in a timely and safe manner.
It was also asking for the departure time from Portobello to be 10 minutes earlier, so pupils and working commuters arrive on time for the working day.
And it has called for a bus to leave the city at 3.08pm, to make the peninsula schedule half-hourly during the 3pm-6pm peak time, like the rest of the city.
If the changes were made, surveys had found 93% of pupils on the peninsula would use the No.18 bus in term 2.
If no changes were made, only 15% would use it.
Parent Jason Graham, who has been driving the debate, was both surprised and delighted to see the DCC step into the debate.
"I don’t know too much about the political ins and outs, but I didn’t think this was something the DCC would get involved in.
"It’s good to see a large heavyweight has decided to back us.’’
Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope said widespread DCC support for the resolution would send a strong message to the ORC that the DCC had concerns about what was happening on the peninsula.
"I would imagine they [DCC] have a watching brief on the issues around public transport in the city, because it obviously affects social well-being, the economy, that sort of stuff.
"Clearly, this whole issue affects the city in a wider way, and to have the DCC come and support the community is a positive.’’
He said the community’s petition to the ORC had more than 900 signatures.
Tahuna Normal Intermediate principal Tony Hunter was also pleased with the growing support, and said it was "really fantastic that the DCC will support us’’.
But he believed there was still a long way to go in the fight.
"It’s trying to gain ground, that is the hard thing.’’
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the resolution was "the DCC’s business’’ and did not comment further on the matter.
However, he said ORC staff would meet DCC councillors on Monday to update them on public transport improvements in the city, including the Otago Peninsula.