Monday night’s Howick Local Board meeting was met with an outpouring of concern from parents over the proposed changes to school bus routes.
About two dozen parents from local schools turned up to appeal against Auckland Transport’s (AT) decision to withdraw school buses for 16 east Auckland schools.
More than 10 parents spoke about their concerns during the public forum, noting that their biggest fear was for their children’s safety.
“Children are not allowed to be left home unattended till the age of 14, so what makes it okay for them to be on a public bus alone at the age of six?” said Stephanie Tame, whose children attend Botany Downs Primary School.
The concerned mother said that the changes would mean a five minute bus ride on a public bus for her children, but would require them to walk 30 minutes before and after school to and from the new bus stop.
She was supported by others who said they would not allow their primary school aged children to catch public transport alone and would instead drive their children to school, which would require rearranging their work hours and add to the existing congestion in school zones.
One mother spoke of how the bus changes would severely impact her 11-year-old son who suffers from anxiety and depression.
She said that her son would have to make three bus transfers next year under the new school bus routes to get to his high school, Sacred Heart College.
She also noted that if he missed the connecting bus at Panmure Station, he would have to make his way onto a train to complete his journey.
“I want to know whose taking responsibility for my child’s safety? Who’s going to be held responsible if my son has a meltdown at Panmure Station? Who’s going to help him?” she said.
Somerville Intermediate principal David Ellery and the school’s bus controller Donna Pengelly shared concerns over the reliability of the new bus system.
While the bus routes will remain similar for Somerville Intermediate, the public buses will now first pick up students from Howick College.
“If buses are already full, do our students get refused? How many buses will be on each route?” Pengelly says.
“With the bus going to Howick College first, the bus will only get to us at around 3.30pm which means we will have 400 odd children to supervise after school.
“We worry about the fact that Howick College finishes late on a Wednesday and a Friday, so again, when exactly will these buses be coming to pick up our students?”
Principal, David Ellery says there has been a lack of consultation with the schools and he is hoping, along with the support of the board, dialogue can be opened with AT about the concerns.
“We want to know how these new buses are actually going to work because there appear to be a large number of practical fish hooks that haven’t been thought through,” Ellery said.