ORC agrees to help with school buses


The Otago Regional Council has agreed to help Peninsula and Port Chalmers families affected by cancelled Go Bus school bus services.

School principals, parents and community members yesterday turned up at a council meeting to urge councillors to help find a solution to their transport issues.

Earlier in the month, Go Bus announced it was discontinuing its school bus service, which took Peninsula and Port Chalmers pupils to and from school each day.

The decision was met with anger and confusion by the public. There was standing room only in the public gallery as more than 20 people attended the meeting yesterday.

Councillors agreed to work with the Ministry of Education, affected schools and the NZ Transport Agency to “find a solution to the withdrawal of the commercial bus service” for term 4. This would include a financial contribution from the council and require updates to the council.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said, during discussions, providing a solution for term 4 would give the community time to sort out a long-term solution.

He could not see a role for the council in the long term.

Earlier in the meeting, members of the public addressed councillors and shared their concerns regarding the ORC bus service and the cancellation of the Go Bus service.

Dunedin city councillor Christine Garey read a letter from a parent who was “totally reliant” on a bus service, while Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope said the loss of the service was a “significant issue” for the Peninsula community.

Many pupils would have to walk 1.6km from the bus stop to school and the cancellation would cause some families “significant hardship”.

Peninsula resident Kjesten Nilsson said her son, who has high-functioning autism and attends Tahuna Normal Intermediate, been “regularly and happily” using the Peninsula school bus since the start of last year.

He was looking forward to catching it when he moved to Bayfield High School next year and it was an important part of his “social inclusion”.

“I’m sure I speak for most parents when I say that the alternative normal Portobello bus route to town is not a safe option for our children going to Tahuna.”

Many children were too young to be catching a public bus unsupervised and crossing busy roads.

Mr Pope said, after the meeting, he was “absolutely delighted” by how many people turned up to show their support.

He was confident the council would come up with a feasible plan for term 4 but work still needed to be done, he said.

“But, on the positive side, the regional council have indicated that they feel they have a obligation to pupils and to parents in terms of term 4.”