CONCERNS RAISED OVER EXPANDING MOTORWAY Noise rumbles school
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.’’
Newton Central School backs right on to the busy northwestern motorway.
Mt Albert MP David Shearer.