Flyover 'treacherous' for school kids

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 12:12 27/05/2014

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Children as young as five will have a more treacherous walk to school in central Wellington if the Basin Reserve flyover goes ahead as planned.

That was the warning from Roger Wigglesworth, chairman of the St Mark's Church School Board, when he addressed a board of inquiry hearing for the proposed flyover today.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is seeking resource consent from the board to build a $90 million two-lane flyover 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve cricket ground.

St Mark's Church School, on Dufferin St, will be a matter of metres from the elevated highway. Wellington College and Wellington East Girls' College are also in the immediate area.

Wigglesworth said the school was "astounded" to hear the agency's experts say the Basin area would be safer for children with the flyover in place.

Current plans involved moving the school's bus stop around the corner to Rugby St or even further away up Adelaide Rd, Wigglesworth said.

That would mean pupils as young as five having to walk past driveways, unsupervised, rather than simply hopping on or getting off a bus at the school gates.

"This is neither safe nor more convenient for our pupils, parents and teaching staff."

Wigglesworth said the school still supported the flyover, in part, because of the economic benefits it would bring to Wellington.

But some within St Mark's were keen to change that stance to one of opposition, largely because of their "high-handed and non-consultative" dealings with the transport agency.

Wigglesworth pointed to the issue of construction noise. The school was concerned about the erratic sounds pupils would hear during the 30-month build, he said.

"Pupils will have their learning interrupted every day by bumps, thumps, whines, revving, rat-a-tats and grating. Unsurprisingly, this will not be a positive selling point for our school."

The agency's response to this problem had been unsatisfying to date, he said.

"All we hear is that [ambient noise] is not going to be much worse than it is now so who cares? That's been the attitude."

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But the agency did deserve credit for coming up with a plan to cap noise and make sure it did not interfere with school's assemblies and twice-weekly church services, Wigglesworth said.

However, the agency had also failed to grasp the fact St Mark's was more than just a 96-year-old private school - it was also a multimillion dollar business.

"NZTA, on the other hand, think of us as a primary school ... they fail to appreciate that all our parents can choose another school."

St Mark's relied on fees to survive and the flyover presented a significant threat to the school's competitiveness, Wigglesworth said.

There was a real risk parents would choose to take their children elsewhere if St Mark's became known as "the school under the flyover".

- The Dominion Post

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