Parents reel from schoolbus subsidy blow

DEBBIE JAMIESON
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014
school bus
DEBBIE JAMIESON/ Fairfax NZ
SCARED: Joshua Swain, 13, and mum Theresa with Marimba Powley and her daughters Niamh, 11, and Tara, 4, are afraid of what changes to Queenstown's school bus system could mean for their journey from Fernhill to town.

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Frustrated and upset Wakatipu parents are desperate for more information on suggested changes to schoolbus routes that could cost up to $1000 a year for each child's transport to and from school.

Ministry of Education representatives told principals last week they had reviewed the area's eligibility for subsidised schoolbuses.

It was identified there was now suitable public transport available for "a number of students" to use to and from school, eliminating some bus routes from funding.

However, the ministry and principals were still working on what bus routes would still qualify.

Principals and parents are frustrated they weren't consulted earlier and many were now in limbo wondering what the changes would mean.

Fernhill mum Theresa Swain has two boys, aged 9 and 10, at St Joseph's School and a son, 13, at Wakatipu High School.

It would cost her $25 per child each week to send her kids to school on the public bus system, about $3000 a year.

"Where are we going to find money for that? We know we've been privileged [to have subsidised buses] but they're treating us like a decile 10 area and we're not."

Mother of three Marimba Powley said safety was also a big concern.

Schoolbuses ensured children were dropped off at school and did not need to walk across busy roads, monitors checked all children were accounted for as they boarded and disembarked, other vehicles were obliged to travel at 20km past schoolbuses and the only other passengers were other schoolchildren.

While the mothers appreciated the schools were passing on all the information they could, it was frustrating not knowing which routes would likely be affected.

"It's scary not knowing. This is our children. This is our community," Swain said.

The wider community would also be affected if more parents drove their children to school, adding to already heavy congestion in the resort, Powley said.

"I'm actually almost speechless. We keep talking about it but we go around in circles because of the frustrating lack of information."

Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall said the principals were working together on the issue and had told the ministry they were keen to get information as soon as possible.

In answer to Southland Times questions yesterday, the ministry's head of the education infrastructure service Kim Shannon said no final decisions had been made on affected routes and there would be a minimum of a school term's notice of any change to transport arrangements.

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