Communities can make change

As a local MP, one truth that must always be remembered is that we must represent the views of our communities.  Whether someone serves as a Member of Parliament, on a city council, or on a local board, we exist to reflect the will of our community and to ensure that those local voices are heard and engaged with.

Recently, Auckland Transport proposed changes to the school bus routes around East Auckland.  The changes proposed would have altered the school bus services impacting many school students and creating uncertainty for families around how children would get to school.

The immediate problem that emerged from this proposal was that the group of people who were going to be most impacted by these changes, families who had school-aged children, were not engaged in the process until it was announced.  That meant that parents of children who used these bus services, quite rightly, became concerned over what this meant for them.

I received a large amount of contact from such parents who were concerned by the lack of consultation and who were unsure what impact the changes would have on their family.
The parents who approached me had concerns such as whether there were safety risks to their children who would now be expected to use a public bus or walk long distances to get to and from school. That was one, of several, concerns that required an answer from Auckland Transport.

At the Howick Local Board meeting, Auckland Transport attended and heard from some of these parents who made passionate, emotional, and well-reasoned arguments to delay the proposal and allow proper consultation with the families who would be affected.

I called for a six month delay for this consultation to occur, arguing that the proposal from Auckland Transport to change school bus routes would have seen a significant number of school children impacted.  Moreover it should never be the case that decisions that affect local communities without having a conversation with the parent community be seen as an acceptable process.

It was very pleasing to see that Auckland Transport accepted these calls for a direct discussion with affected families through the affected schools before implementing any decision.

What this demonstrates is how effective locals can be.  A community that was affected by an issue and felt like they had a lack of input in a decision that affected them rallied together and reminded us what people power can achieve.

Best wishes for a safe and happy Christmas. See you in 2018.

Jami-Lee Ross
Member of Parliament for Botany