Relief after ORC alters bus routes

After a tense vote, a regional council decision to divert Wakari and Helensburgh buses away from ''dangerous'' streets drew tears of happiness from a safety campaigner.

The Otago Regional Council yesterday decided to alter part of its network to avoid areas of Shetland St, Centennial Ave and Lynn St which residents regarded as dangerous because they were steep or narrow.

Wakari resident Andrea Irvine and daughter Beth (4) stand at an area of Lynn St, near Wakari Kindergarten, which is to become bus-free. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Wakari resident Andrea Irvine and daughter Beth (4) stand at an area of Lynn St, near Wakari Kindergarten, which is to become bus-free. Photo: Gerard O'Brien

Of five options, council staff preferred one which removed the first two areas of concern, but still included the steep section of Lynn St which contained Wakari Kindergarten.

First, the council moved to introduce this option, which resulted in a 6-6 tie.

Finance and corporate committee chairman Doug Brown refused to break the tie and so the motion was abandoned.

The council then introduced the option preferred by concerned local residents which removed all three areas, which passed 11-1.

There were tears in the eyes of Wakari resident Andrea Irvine after the decision.

''I'm very happy. I think I'm about to cry. 'When they were making that decision, that was the longest 15 minutes of my life. I don't know what to say.''

Before the decision, Cr Carmen Hope said she was concerned about the Lynn St section in the staff's preferred option.

''It is icy and it is dangerous. I support that we change this route.''

Cr Andrew Noone said he could not support introducing a network that still included Lynn St.

A council-commissioned report clearly indicated the routes preferred by the residents allowed more transfers, he said.

Cr Bryan Scott said he was disappointed there was no rigorous indicator of health and safety concerns in each option.

''I think there hasn't been community consultation.''

The issue began for residents in that area when bus routes were changed in September.

They created a social media page of about 90 people dedicated to the issue and held a meeting earlier this year attended by 100 people.



The Helensburgh bus route travel path changes have been a complete waste of public money. There was nothing wrong with the original route. There is still considerable danger in trying to run buses up and down a street so steep and narrow and with such poor visibility as Shetland St. I live near the Dale St Shetland St corner where the outward 33 bus is required to make a left turn out of Dale St UP into Shetland St sometimes at the same time as the inward 33 bus is making a right turn DOWN from Shetland St into Dale St. At the same time, both drivers have to be watching, giving way to any other traffic on their right and car parking is permitted on Dale St right to the corner. This is an accident waiting to happen. I contacted the ORC about it and they said there was nothing they could do about it. I also made a submission to the ORC Transport Plan years ago when these proposed route changes were open for public consultation saying Shetland St was not safe for a bus route. About a year ago, I made a further submission, both written and oral, on these routes. Much safer to zigzag across the hill than to try going straight up. Might look good on a map and maybe that influenced ORC.

Congratulations to Wakari residents being heard and and getting the changes which locals and drivers know will work. If the Regional Council staff and councillors had listened to bus users and drivers instead of adhering to NZ Transport authority plans, this and other inappropriate routes could have been avoided. Quite an expensive exercise.