Win for children’s safe bus journeys

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It pays to persevere – just ask everyone who backed a proposal by Wanaka Primary School to have a one-seat-per-child policy on all school buses.

The Ministry of Education, announced last week all children would get a seat when travelling to and from school.

Until now, children were legally allowed to stand while travelling on a school bus in accordance with its certificate of loading if all seats were taken.

Wanaka Primary School board chairman Andrew Howard was among those celebrating the news.

“We’re stoked the ministry has agreed to do a one-seat-per-child policy.”

Mr Howard told The News last month he had met the national manager and regional adviser for school transport and the regional contracts manager.

He had also discussed the issue with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who contacted Education Minister Chris Hipkins on the school’s behalf – all to no avail, so he thought.

At the time, Mr Howard believed anyone who had the power to change minds, or the rules, was not going to.

As a result, last week’s news came as slightly surprising, he said.

The NZ Transport Agency chief executive announced the “good news” last week.

That outcome was the result of various aspects, Mr Howard said.

“I think it was several different things coming together – media coverage definitely made them aware of the issue, communication from Wanaka Primary School and Jim Boult, the [Queenstown Lakes District] Mayor.”

An investigation into the safety of buses following three crashes in two weeks might also have impacted on the final outcome, Mr Howard said.

It was now up to the ministry to provide extra buses, if required, so all children had a seat on a school bus on their way to school.

“The Ministry of Education needs to look at their network where there are a large number of kids on a particular [bus] route.

“It’s certainly going to be a big job for them.”

Mr Howard thanked everyone involved in the process, particularly Mr Boult and ministry representatives.

“They have been really good in terms of listening and genuinely wanting to improve the situation. It wasn’t easy to start with, but there was a general desire there to make our kids safer.”

Mr Boult also thanked everyone involved.

“This is a bold decision on behalf of the ministry, as there will be costs involved in bringing additional capacity into the school bus fleet,” he said.

“But, I applaud them for responding to the concerns raised.

“It’s a change that needs to be made to reduce the risks to our district’s children travelling to and from school.”