Bus pick-up site change sparks safety fears

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013
bus
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/ Fairfax NZ

UNPOPULAR MOVE: A bus stop has moved from the main road in Winchester to Unwin Ln, leading to concern from parents over the safety of their children disembarking in a 100kmh zone.

clint sewell
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/ Fairfax NZ
BUS CHANGE: Temuka father-of-four Clint Sewell is upset with the change to the bus pick-up site for school students travelling to Geraldine.

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Opihi College has enforced its right to stop other schools from encroaching on its transport entitlement zone (Tez), forcing Geraldine students to move to a different bus pick-up site, which parents claim is unsafe.

Each school has a specific Tez to establish the nearest school for a student. Schools will often negotiate an agreement to go within each other's boundaries, but Opihi College and Geraldine High School never have, although for the past four years they have in practice.

Opihi College principal Mike Wright said the change which he and the board of trustees instigated was to put the matter back on a level playing field.

The shift implemented at the start of this term was to ensure minimal impact, he said.

Protesting parents expressed their concern in a group letter presented to the school and said they were declined permission to attend Opihi College's board of trustees meeting on the subject at the end of last year.

The board responded to letters opposed to the change.

"I believe we now have a fair system," Mr Wright said.

Students attending Geraldine schools from Winchester were picked up outside Kavanagh House on State Highway 1 in Winchester, but now the stop has moved to the corner of Reilly Rd and Unwin Lane, about 1.5 kilometres further north.

A father of two Geraldine High School students, Darren Rae, has fought the change, along with other parents. His main concern is that the new location is just off State Highway 1 and in a 100kmh area, whereas the previous stop was in a 50kmh area.

"Children and parents who do not have access to transport are either walking or biking up this busy stretch."

One child had almost been hit by a car as it drove into Reilly Rd from the highway, he said.

"They [the motorist] was obviously not expecting to see schoolchildren, buses and cars."

The worried father thinks it is also dangerous expecting motorists to slow down to 20kmh in a 100kmh zone when passing a school bus with children disembarking.

Geraldine High School bus controller Mark Hayward said the police had checked the new site and deemed it safe, providing parents parked on one side of Unwin Lane only.

"I understand parents are disappointed. We tried to keep the status quo, but there was no compromise."

He said their main focus was on safety and the ministry rules on the zones were quite clearly defined.

"We're complying with the ministry. We've had about four years' grace."

Clint Sewell, a father of four children who use the bus, said he found it ridiculous that the bus still had to travel past the previous pick-up and drop-off point in Winchester, but was not allowed to stop.

Mr Sewell and Mr Rae still maintain that the Unwin Lane stop is not safe and will continue to fight the move.

"They [Opihi College] should put their kids out there, then see what they think," Mr Sewell said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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