CON­CERNS RAISED OVER EX­PAND­ING MO­TOR­WAY Noise rum­bles school

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By ROSE CAW­LEY

TRAF­FIC noise is prov­ing a headache for one Auck­land school.

New­ton Cen­tral backs onto the ex­pand­ing north­west­ern mo­tor­way and con­cerns are be­ing raised over whether it is be­com­ing too loud for the young­sters.

Par­ent Sarah Kelly has been trou­bled by the ve­hi­cle noise since her fam­ily moved into the area and her son started at New­ton Cen­tral School in 2013.

‘‘We used to go and play in the play­ground. It was re­ally loud, like ridicu­lously loud,’’ she says.

‘‘I got out my iPhone out and pulled up an app and mea­sured the sound.’’

It was 75 to 85 deci­bels, she says.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion says play­grounds shouldn’t be over 55 deci­bels and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion fol­lows that guide­line.

Kelly has filed Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests, combed New Zealand Trans­port Agency re­ports, talked to noise ex­perts and pre­sented to the school’s board of trustees.

She has been sup­ported by other par­ents, the Arch Hill Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion and in 2014 the school passed her find­ings on to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

She thought her hard work would be met with ac­tion and that peace and quiet would pre­vail.

But it is still as noisy as ever in the New­ton Cen­tral play­ground.

‘‘What do you do? Do you take your kid out of school?

‘‘The school is a lit­tle bea­con, it is so beau­ti­ful but maybe my son shouldn’t be go­ing to school right next to a mo­tor­way.’’

Kelly says chil­dren shouldn’t have to en­dure that level of noise while dif­fer­ent agen­cies to and fro over who should prove it is a prob­lem.

‘‘I’m lucky on all ac­counts my son seems to be do­ing well at school but what about the kids who can’t af­ford to have that dis­trac­tion.

‘‘Kids aren’t the ones who know bet­ter. It shouldn’t be up to them moan­ing about it.’’

NZ Trans­port Agency’s high­way manager for Auck­land Brett Glid­don says there is no plan to carry out a fea­si­bil­ity study into noise re­duc­tion at New­ton Cen­tral School. He says retro­fit­ted noise bar­ri­ers would be of lit­tle ben­e­fit.

‘‘The steep to­pog­ra­phy of the mo­tor­way and New­ton Cen­tral School makes it chal­leng­ing to deal with noise mit­i­ga­tion.’’

Frus­trated by the stag­nant process Kelly turned to Mt Al­bert MP David Shearer for help.

Shearer says af­ter vis­it­ing the school it is clear de­ci­sive ac­tion is needed but no-one is fronting up.

‘‘The mo­tor­way up­grade is a much needed in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment. I’m not ar­gu­ing that it isn’t nec­es­sary,’’ he says.

‘‘I’m just say­ing when ma­jor changes to in­fra­struc­ture are car­ried out the com­mu­ni­ties that are im­pacted need to be lis­tened to.’’

Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion head of ed­u­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture ser­vice Kim Shan­non says a con­sul­tancy com­pany was brought in to work with the school in July 2014.

‘‘On-site testing of noise lev­els is part of this work and will oc­cur in the next few weeks.

‘‘We will know what op­tions are avail­able to the school when the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete.’’

The min­istry is in­vest­ing more than $2 mil­lion on mod­erni­sa­tion and es­sen­tial up­grades of class­room blocks at New­ton Cen­tral School.

‘‘As part of the project, we will en­gage an acous­tics en­gi­neer to en­sure any nec­es­sary noise mit­i­ga­tion is fac­tored into build­ing de­sign.’’

As­so­ciate min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion Nikki Kaye wouldn’t say if the re­sponse has been quick enough. ‘‘It is ab­so­lutely im­por­tant that we look at the tim­ing but we also need to fo­cus on the so­lu­tions mov­ing for­ward.’’

She says this could be a grow­ing is­sue for Auck­land schools.

‘‘As we get more peo­ple living in our city and po­ten­tially more in­ten­sity there may be a group of schools that noise is an is­sue.

‘‘It will be im­por­tant for the min­istry to work with those schools. We have sig­nif­i­cant prop­erty fund­ing to work is­sues like this out. The money is there.’’

Photo: ROSE CAW­LEY

New­ton Cen­tral School backs right on to the busy north­west­ern mo­tor­way.

Mt Al­bert MP David Shearer.

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