100,000 school children can all take a seat

Wanaka Primary School board of trustees chairman Andrew Howard and his children (from left) Casey...
Wanaka Primary School board of trustees chairman Andrew Howard and his children (from left) Casey (8), Ayla (11) and Sienna (8) on one of the school’s extra buses. Photo: Mark Price
Wanaka Primary School has  scored an important victory for its children  and those around the country forced to stand on overcrowded school buses.

Earlier this year, concerned about their children’s safety, the  school’s board of trustees set out to change the rules concerning  "standees". The result is  a change in ministry policy, announced yesterday  via Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult.

Mr Boult took the board’s concerns to the ministry and  the New Zealand Transport Agency and said he was delighted to learn the ministry was "bringing an end to the practice of children standing on school buses".

"This is a bold decision on behalf of the ministry, as there will be costs involved in bringing additional capacity into the school bus fleet.

"But I applaud them for responding to the concerns raised.

"It’s a change that needs to be made to reduce the risks to our district’s children travelling to and from school."

Mr Boult praised board chairman Andrew Howard for driving the campaign for change and congratulated him on a successful outcome.

Mr Howard said the decision was "massively satisfying".

"When we started this thing, there had been people who had been aware of this issue or campaigning on it for decades."

Mr Howard said he understood  100,000 children travelled to and from school by bus each  day.

A study completed in 2010 had estimated about 1000 of those were standing.

"It was quite a significant issue everywhere.

"I guess it was more obvious in Wanaka because we’ve got such a strongly growing roll and they only review the bus services every so often."

A week ago, the ministry solved the immediate problem for Wanaka Primary School by putting on extra buses. Mr Howard said the ministry went  even further, adopting for the whole country the one-seat-per-child formula the board was calling for.

The drive had been to get the "fundamental policy changed" rather than finding ad hoc solutions.

"It has always been the aim to solve the problem across the country."

He was aware the ministry would need time to arrange buses and drivers for the additional services.

"When they make changes like this, it requires a lot of work to figure out how they are going to do it."

Mr Howard said the board would be discussing with the ministry in a fortnight how well the new Wanaka service was operating.

The ministry was unable to confirm the change of policy late yesterday afternoon.

Add a Comment