Bus stop changes deemed unsafe

    Otautau dairy relief milker Kumudushni Hapuarachchi says the changes to the Transport Entitlement Zone are making her journey to Central Southland College's bus stop longer and more unsafe.

    SOME Southland families are having to drive at least 10km to a bus stop so children can get to school.

    From increased travel distances to children’s safety, concerns have been raised following the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) decision to change the Transport Entitlement Zone (TEZ).

    Until January 2020, the last stop for the Bayswater route from the Winton-based Central Southland College (CSC) ended at the Four Square in Otautau.

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

    While she doesn’t mind, parents were struggling to get their 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.

    Madison’s family originally lived in the zone for the school but had since moved outside of it.

    Considering it was her final year, there was no point moving to a different school closer to home.

    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 CSC, rather than a school closer to their home, the extra 7.3km was taking a toll.

    “I do three days of the week and my husband does two.

    “It’s hard, we wake up at 6am and my son is tired but he loves his school and the education.”

    Other parents from Nightcaps, Hedgehope and other small towns in the Central Southland area were having to do the same.

    She was also concerned about the safety of the children, due to the busyness of the 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 his community.

    When a meeting was held at the school about the MoE’s proposed changes, the room was “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 choice, the travel would get increasingly dangerous for those driving long distances during winter.

    He, too, was worried about accidents occurring at the site.

    All three agreed, if the bus stop was to move back to its original site or the route be extended entirely, it would solve a lot of the issues the school community was facing.

    CSC acting principal Brendon Wallace said the school and community communicated its concerns to the MoE at the time the change was proposed.

    However, once it made its decision, 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.

    MoE 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 MoE website says any pupil living inside the TEZ and more than 4.8km away is eligible to access a CSC bus.

    CSC buses are not allowed to uplift any student while outside the TEZ.

    Pupils living more than 4.8km from their nearest school but outside the CSC TEZ are entitled to bus transport, however, they must make their own way to TEZ designated points to access the buses.