School bus service reprieve welcomed

Wakatipu High School pupils board a school bus on Gorge Rd yesterday. Photo: Guy Williams
Wakatipu High School pupils board a school bus on Gorge Rd yesterday. Photo: Guy Williams
A tempory reprieve for Queenstown’s school buses has been welcomed by parents, but families in some areas are missing out.

The Ministry of Education decided earlier this month to end most school bus services on the grounds the routes would not meet its criteria once a revamped public network started next month. But after discussions with the Otago Regional Council (ORC), Queenstown Lakes District Council and Wakatipu High School last week, it announced yesterday it would delay the withdrawal of some services.

Fiona Brabant, of Arthurs Point, said she was "thrilled for us" that school children in the settlement would continue to have the service, but was surprised families in other areas would miss out.

"I really think the ministry should be waiting and giving everyone a reprieve until this new bus service is up and running."

The prospect of her three children having to change buses twice to get to school remained unacceptable, Mrs Brabant said.

Arrowtown mother of two Pip Scobie said she was pleased her children were benefiting from the reprieve, but felt disappointed for families in other areas.

Mrs Scobie said it was hard to judge how user-friendly the public network would be for school children until details about timetables and transfer locations were released.

She hoped the ministry and the councils kept talking about the issue, as parents would end up driving their children to school if they decided public buses were unsuitable.

"The whole idea of the public service is to get the cars off the road, and we don’t want to ruin that."

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said the ministry had agreed to continue school buses for Arthurs Point, Arrowtown, Lake Hayes Estate, Quail Rise, Shotover Country and other areas it already provided a service for.

Those services would continue until the public network could provide the necessary frequency, capacity and timing for those areas.

However, high school pupils now taking ministry school buses from Sunshine Bay, Frankton, Jack’s Point and Kelvin Heights would have to switch to the public network.

Mr Bodeker said the possible need for additional capacity on the Fernhill-Remarkables Park service had been identified.

His staff would investigate this further and report  to councillors.

Mr Boult said the ministry had made a "common-sense decision for the local community" that would give the new public network the opportunity to settle in.

He hoped the reprieve would continue for at least a year, but expected to know more after a meeting with ministry representatives today.

Wakatipu High principal Steve Hall said the decision was pleasing for the school community, despite the reprieve being temporary.

He attributed the reprieve to a "thorough analysis" by the school of the way the public network’s routes and timetables matched against the ministry’s national criteria for school bus services.

It had "identified some gaps" in how the criteria were originally applied, and the ministry had responded favourably when that information was presented to it last week.

Although the timing of its initial announcement "wasn’t great", the ministry had acted fairly throughout the process, Mr Hall said.

The length of the reprieve would be "completely determined by the evolution of the public bus system".

Add a Comment