Action demanded over children standing in bus aisles

Jim Boult. Photo: ODT files
Jim Boult. Photo: ODT files
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demanding action over children being forced to stand in the aisles of rural school buses.

In a letter this week, Mr Boult told Ms Ardern and the ministers of transport, education, children and youth he was appealing to them as "fellow parents" to put a stop to the practice.

Given the speed limit on rural roads ranged from 80kmh to 100kmh, it was an "inherently unsafe and an irresponsible protocol", he said.

When he raised the matter with the NZ Transport Agency in 2018, he was told the practice would stop.

Therefore he was "shocked and disappointed" to be told by Hawea Flat School principal Tania Pringle a few months ago that under new tender arrangements, the practice would be resuming, affecting several schools
in the district.

That had prompted him to again write to the NZTA and the ministries of education and transport over the past two months.

Their response had been to "point the finger elsewhere and take no responsibility", he said.

"I am left with the impression these entities simply do not take the matter seriously."

Ms Pringle told the Otago Daily Times the issue was first raised by Wanaka Primary School three years ago, and was resolved after Mr Boult’s intervention.

However, it cropped up again after her school requested a review of its bus service.

"We were told we would not be considered for further buses until we were regularly having children not able to fit on to the bus," Ms Pringle said.

"We would have to load to the full capacity of their loading certificates, which for a 45-seater is 65 years 0 to 6 children, and 10 standing."

Because the rolls of schools in the area were growing, that outcome was inevitable.

"They are unwilling to discuss our significant growth."

Ms Pringle said having children as young as 5 standing on buses travelling on roads with open-road speed limits, and which were often unsealed and subject to winter conditions, was a "significant risk".

"The safety of our children should come first."

guy.williams@odt.co.nz

Comments

Hey Mr Boult, I'm pretty sure this is not Jacinda Ardern's doing....but anything to pile on aye?

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