19 Sep 2017

Dunedin families 'up in arms' as school bus routes cut

6:31 pm on 19 September 2017

Parents and schools in Dunedin are angry four school bus routes are being ended and say they have not been consulted.

School bus

School bus Photo: RNZ

Parents and schools have criticised the operator Go Bus for not consulting before dropping the four dedicated school bus services around Otago Peninsula and to Sawyers Bay from next term.

Buses to Port Chalmers and Waverly were also being cut.

Go Bus Transport is owned by two iwi - Ngāi Tahu and Tainui - and said it was dropping the routes from the beginning of next term because they were no longer viable.

At least 100 school children, including from Ōtākou marae, would face longer travel and walks of several kilometres crossing busy roads.

The move comes in the same week as the regional council overhauls the bus routes and timetables.

Otago Peninsula community board chairperson Paul Pope said parents were up in arms that the services were suddenly being ended.

He said they found out just last week without any discussion.

Nicola McGrouther lives at Harrington Point and said she was unhappy her son's trip to high school could double from 45 minutes each way.

"Pretty horrified actually, I think when they've already done a long school day - and they've got homework to do, you know he's doing senior exams - that adding three hours of travelling into that is pretty disappointing."

She said she would have liked a term's notice and proper consultation on the change and her son may have to get his licence and drive himself to school to avoid the long commute.

Ōtākou marae's Tahu Potiki, a Ngāi Tahu representative, said he was not surprised Go Bus was dropping the service because it lost its other council contracts this year but it needed to consult first.

"I can understand why a number of families including families that belong to Ngāi Tahu are disappointed that they are now going to be affected by the changes and that better notice and better communication would have been advisable."

He said he was confident a creative solution could be found if all the parties sit down together.

Go Bus refused to be interviewed but said in a statement it was a commercial business that received no subsidy from the Transport Authority, the Ministry of Education or the regional council.

"The decision to cease operation of these routes was made with much regret and taken only after a thorough review and consideration," it said.

A fare increase in 2016 was not enough to cover decreasing passenger numbers, and the buses themselves also needed replacement, the statement said.

The council's support services manager, Gerard Collings, said it was possible the council could step in.

"We're in close discussion with the ministry of education on this matter and like us they're really shocked about the time and the effort.

"And those disscussions will include a potential subsidy from possibly the individual schools, Ministry of Education or - if council has a change of policy direction - this council."

Education Minister Nikki Kaye said she was concerned to hear that some school students may have been disadvantaged.

"It's important that students living some distance from school are able to access suitable transport to get them there. The Ministry of Education is able to help in some situations where there is no suitable public transport available.

"The Ministry has assured me they are actively working with the Otago Regional Council and Go Bus to gain a clear understanding of the situation, and ensure there are suitable transport options for affected students. I will stay briefed on this situation."