Bus debacle irks Opihi College

Opihi College has had enough of the Pleasant Point bus debacle, which the school thought was sorted out in 2012.

Last year the Ministry of Education decided buses from Pleasant Point would only be funded in accordance with the Transport Entitlement Zone (TEZ) covering the town from the beginning of the 2015 school year. That meant Point high school children could only get a free school bus to Opihi College.

Earlier this week Associate Minister of Education Nikki Kaye announced free buses for Pleasant Point students to the schools of their choice would continue for a further 15 months.

"It's a kick in the pants," Opihi College principal Mike Wright said.

The school approached the Ministry of Education in 2012, which decided to enforce its own TEZs, he said.

Wright had printouts of TEZs from 2009 which showed Pleasant Point students fell into the Opihi College TEZ.

He said the school felt it had been fair.

"A decision was made by the Ministry of Education in 2012 which we were led to believe would be for the start of the 2014 school year.

"It was dragged out to 2015 and now 2016," Wright said.

He was concerned at what he saw as misinformation and inaction from the ministry. "How much more time do they need to work this out?"

Opihi board of trustees chairman Murray Prentice said he was gutted it was an ongoing issue.

"We were disappointed Jo Goodhew did not talk to us before she went to Nikki Kaye," he said. "It is a political move in an election year."

Prentice said the school had been "shafted" by the local MP and the ministry doing a "complete reversal". Prentice also said it appeared Kaye had overridden the ministry's ongoing decision since 2012.

Kaye replied the extension to the TEZ change had been made so terms of reference for a working party could be finalised. "The extra time will also allow caregivers more time to arrange any alternative transport options that may be required for the future."

Goodhew said it was an ongoing issue raised with her on numerous occasions by schools and concerned constituents.

"I did not discuss my intention to write to minister Kaye with any schools.

"I did, however, tell Opihi principal Mike Wright on Monday that I had written to my colleague minister Kaye, and then rang him on Tuesday to tell him what her response was. I will be meeting with the school's board of trustees to hear their concerns."

The Timaru Herald