Victory for campaign against children standing on school buses
A seat for every child travelling on a school bus has been guaranteed by the Ministry of Education, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult has announced.
Earlier this year, Wanaka Primary School Board of Trustees chairman, Andrew Howard, launched a "one seat per child" campaign.
Howard, and many other community members, feared for the safety of children - particularly primary school aged pupils - being forced to stand on crowded school buses, often on open roads where buses travel at up to 80kph.
The danger was exacerbated, Howard argued, by frequently icy roads and high numbers of foreign drivers who were unfamiliar with New Zealand's roads.
Initially the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) maintained the practice was perfectly safe, as indicated by the lack of serious injuries on school buses, and refused to review the policy.
But Mayor Boult says he has received information from the NZTA this week that the ministry has agreed to stop allowing children to stand on school buses.
Andrew Howard, who had pledged to continue with the campaign despite the authorities' initial lack of concern, says the result is amazing.
“People have been asking for this change for decades and to have finally achieved it is massively satisfying. Thank you to Mayor Jim Boult, the Wanaka Primary School community and the Ministry of Education School Transport team for making this happen.”
Mayor Boult called the ministry's decision "bold.
“...there will be costs involved in bringing additional capacity into the school bus fleet. 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.”
Mayor Boult said, along with Andrew Howard's commitment, the NZTA had been instrumental in ensuring this much-needed change and he wished to publicly thank the organisation for its efforts.
He also had accolades for Andrew Howard: “It’s easy to close our eyes to situations sometimes and it takes someone like Mr Howard to stand up and say ‘this situation is ludicrous’. I for one am delighted that he did challenge the status quo and has made the daily school run safer for all our children.”
Crux launched a petition only two days ago calling for improved safety on school buses. The petition had attracted almost 800 signatures at the time the ministry's decision was announced today.