Bus zone change raises access, safety concern

Kumudushni Hapuarachchi. Photo: Abbey Palmer
Kumudushni Hapuarachchi. Photo: Abbey Palmer
Some Southland families are having to drive at least 10km to a bus stop just so children can get to school.

From increased travel distances to children’s safety, concerns have been raised following the Ministry of Education’s decision to change the transport entitlement zone (TEZ).

Until January 2020, the last stop for the Bayswater route from Central Southland College ended at the Four Square in Otautau.

Year 12 pupil Madison Ballantyine said she now drove 10km from her home to get her two brothers to the new stop at the intersection of Bayswater and Gladfield Rds.

While she did not mind helping, parents were struggling to get children to the bus in the morning and home from the final stop.

"A lot of people carpool and parents are relying on other parents to take their kids because they have work during the day and can’t get there," she said.

Dairy relief milker Kumudushni Hapuarachchi drove about 40 minutes to get her son and her friend’s daughter to the bus stop from their home in Tuatapere.

While it was her family’s decision to send their child to Central Southland College, rather than a school closer to home, the extra 7.3km was taking a toll.

"It’s hard. We wake up at 6am and my son is tired but he loves his school and the education," she said.

Other parents from towns such as Nightcaps and Hedgehope were having to do the same.

She was also concerned about the safety of the children, because of the busy intersection and the lack of dedicated spaces for cars and the bus to stop.

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said although he was inside the TEZ, he was frustrated for others.

A meeting held at the school about the ministry’s proposed changes had been "packed".

"When it used to be at the Four Square, half the students just walked to the bus stop."

While he acknowledged it did partly come down to personal choices, the travel would get more dangerous for those travelling long distances in winter.

He too was worried about accidents occurring at the site.

All three agreed that moving the bus stop back to its original site or extending the route would solve a lot of the issues.

College acting principal Brendon Wallace said the school and community communicated their concerns to the ministry when the change was proposed.

However, once the decision was made, they were left with no option but to accept it.

"We currently operate under the MoE policies around student access to our buses and are powerless to operate outside these policies," Mr Wallace said.

He was unaware of any formal requests made since the changes were implemented.

Ministry education infrastructure service head Kim Shannon said the department was unaware of any safety concerns and would be contacting the school to investigate the claims.

The ministry’s website states any pupil living inside the TEZ and more than 4.8km away is eligible to access a Central Southland College bus.

Those buses may not uplift any pupil while outside the TEZ.

Pupils living more than 4.8km from their nearest school but outside the college’s TEZ are entitled to bus transport, but must make their own way to TEZ designated points.


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