By: Simon Collins
East Auckland parents have won a halt on controversial plans to axe dedicated school buses and make school children catch regular public transport.
Auckland Transport spokesman James Ireland says the agency has agreed to go back to all 27 affected schools and postpone the proposed changes for the schools that are not happy with them.
“We are going to go back to each school that will have changes and just check with them, here’s what we are proposing, are you happy?” he said.
“If they are not, we will postpone those changes. If they are, the changes will go ahead.”
The decision is at least a temporary victory for more than 1400 parents who have signed a petition asking Auckland Transport to reinstate the current school bus services, which it had planned to stop at the end of this year.
Botany mother Angelika Sansom, who has helped to organise the parents’ campaign, said about 20 parents attended a Howick Local Board meeting last night to seek support to keep the current services.
“There was a lot of emotion,” she said.
“There was a comment from one of the board members: ‘People have heard your message loud and clear.'”
Parents said yesterday that they would have to drive to schools to pick up their children to get them home in time for after-school sports and other activities because it would take too long for them to catch multiple buses to get home by public transport.
Howick parent Rennel Bulay said he was also worried that his sons would join 150 other students from East Auckland who would have to change buses at Panmure Station to get to and from Sacred Heart College in Glendowie, along with hundreds of other students waiting at Panmure for public buses to get to other schools.
Ireland said Auckland Transport acknowledged that it “could have done a better job in engaging with them [parents] earlier”.
“After hearing those concerns we are proposing to modify the plans and reinstate buses for two schools (Howick Intermediate and Our Lady Star of the Sea) which previously were having services withdrawn completely,” je said.
“We are also altering a school bus route to better serve Botany Downs Primary.
“We are currently in contact with these schools and requesting they pass on the information to parents.
“We are also talking to three other schools where parents have raised issues – Sacred Heart College, Baradene College and Somerville Intermediate – and If necessary we will delay changes while we work through a solution. This may include keeping some existing services.
“We will also go back to all other schools in East Auckland to again check that they are comfortable with our proposals.
“In addition Auckland Transport is holding nine information events over the next two weeks; if anyone has concerns or wants further information they can come along and speak to us in person.”
Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross called yesterday for a delay of six months to a year so that parents could be properly consulted. Today he welcomed Auckland Transport’s decision to consult the schools.
“Auckland Transport is acknowledging that they didn’t report properly in the first place. They are now starting to have that conversation with parents,” he said.
“But it’s still important that they do listen. This cannot be windowdressing. It needs to be real and genuine.
“If the parent community doesn’t see that there is acceptance that changes need to be made, then I think there will still be a lot of passion and emotion expressed.”
Source: NZ Herald