Solution to crossing fears stalled

Sawyers Bay School principal Gareth Swete (left) and school patrollers Ethan Aitcheson (9) and...
Sawyers Bay School principal Gareth Swete (left) and school patrollers Ethan Aitcheson (9) and Olivia Goldsmith (9, at right) keep an eye out for vehicles at the school gates on Stevenson Ave, Sawyers Bay. Photo by Brenda Harwood.
Sawyers Bay School principal Gareth Swete is frustrated by a lack of progress on solving safety concerns at the school gate.

With many vehicles travelling too quickly along Stevenson Ave, directly past the school entrance, there was a potential danger to children - especially those using the crossing outside school hours, Mr Swete told The Star.

''I feel strongly that the children are in danger, and that we need to do something about it,'' Mr Swete said.

There had been ''near misses'' in the past, he said.

''Part of the problem is quite a few people drive from Northeast Valley to Port Chalmers over the high road and they end up coming straight past the school,'' Mr Swete said.

''It's a rural road, so they probably aren't expecting to come across a school.''

The 92 Sawyers Bay School pupils use the crossing to get to and from school, and are watched over by school patrollers at these times, but the crossing is also used outside of school times to access the playground. This is set to increase with the building of a cycle training area in the school grounds and a proposed childcare centre next door.

Although the crossing's signs and markings were upgraded in mid-2013, following a safety review by the Dunedin City Council, concerns remain for children's safety.

Mr Swete does not believe a blanket 40kmh speed limit in school zones, proposed last week by school principals, would be effective in the case of Sawyers Bay School because of its rural nature.

''Even with the updated signage, people still come whizzing along here.''

However, a relatively simple solution - to install a ''raised table'' at the crossing to force drivers to slow down - has stalled due to a lack of available funding.

''I brought up the idea [of a raised table] 18 months ago. It would be an effective, permanent fix for the problem,'' Mr Swete said.

Despite a recent report by council staff, agreeing in principle that a raised table would help address underlying safety issues at the school gate, the estimated $6500 to $7000 needed to build it was not available.

''We have been told that council would be happy to look into installing a raised platform, if the school is prepared to pay for it,'' Mr Swete said.

''We just don't have that kind of money. Every cent of our budget is allocated to support the children.''

At its recent meeting, the Chalmers Community Board viewed a report on the Stevenson Ave crossing and sympathised with the frustration felt by Mr Swete at the situation. A resolution was passed asking that the DCC agree to work in partnership with the school to find a co-funding option.

Community board chairman Steve Walker told The Star he applauded the efforts of Mr Swete to make the ''busy and popular crossing area far less dangerous for children''.

''With a simple and cost-effective solution at hand, it seems logical to act now, rather than when the horse has bolted.''

Dunedin City Council transportation engineer Diana Munster said that council was aware of ongoing concerns with the school crossing in Stevenson Ave, including a number of ''near misses'' children have had with vehicles on the road.

She agreed that installing a ''raised table'' could reduce the risk by slowing traffic down, complementing measures taken by the school, parents, police and the DCC.

''Unfortunately, at this stage, we do not have the funding available to install a raised table here.''


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