Public wins bus-route battle but war may not be over

Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope (left) and concerned parent Jason Graham at the start of the new route some peninsula buses will take. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope (left) and concerned parent Jason Graham at the start of the new route some peninsula buses will take. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago regional councillors have bowed to public pressure over concerns for the safety of school children and agreed to alter some Otago Peninsula bus routes.

The decision went against recommendations of Otago Regional Council staff.

Campaigners say the war is yet to be won as they potentially face a lengthy consultation process.

Councillors decided to commit to alterations to the routes at an Otago Regional Council committee meeting in Dunedin yesterday.

Two buses - one before and one after school - will take a diverted route down Shore St and Musselburgh Rise.

One bus will now leave Portobello 10 minutes earlier at 7.47am on weekdays, and an extra bus will be added at 3.08pm.

The decision comes after extensive community lobbying, including a 960-signature petition.

They argued present bus routes were unsafe for school children.

A staff report prepared by regional council corporate services director Nick Donnelly recommended the route change and the 7.47am bus timetable alteration be declined, but supported the investigation of the 3.08pm bus.

Mr Donnelly said the change would be considered a ''variation'', as it would mean services would have different routes at different parts of the day.

This was contrary to the guiding principles of the council's transport plan and therefore it would have to consult the public about the change which would ''not happen quickly'', he said.

''If it changed for the whole day you could get away with not doing this consultation.''

It was a different situation to recent route alterations in Wakari, as those changes were considered ''minor'', he said.

Cr Bryan Scott said the community was only asking for ''a minor change''.

It was ''red tape'' that meant the council needed more public consultation, as it already had a ''petition with 1000 people''.

Cr Michael Laws said he was not convinced the change would require consultation and requested the council get legal advice on this, which was agreed.

Cr Michael Deaker said the route worked fine and did not require change.

Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope said he was ''pleased to see the council making resolutions around change''.

He would argue at the next council meeting later this month the changes did not require a long consultation process.

''In two weeks' time, if we can argue this is a minor change, that'll be the real celebration. We've won the battle, we haven't won the war.''

Tahuna Normal Intermediate School principal Tony Hunter said yesterday it sounded like ''fantastic news'', although he was yet to hear the details of the council decision.

''We've worked very hard at getting our point of view across and it's great the council has recognised it's a worthy case.

''It really shows that they're listening to their community and prepared to be flexible enough in their thinking.''

Comments

How can the ORC staff member argue that changing one trip and adding one trip be a major change, given there are over 1000 trips per day?