Pas­sion­ate plea for an un­der­pass

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Three 12-year-old sub­mit­ters plead­ing for an un­der­pass at Clyde helped sway Cen­tral Otago coun­cil­lors to move the project for­ward.

Clyde Pri­mary School pupils Amy and Zoe His­lop and Fin­lay Rus­sel be­came the youngest sub­mit­ters to the Cen­tral Otago District Coun­cil’s draft an­nual plan on Wed­nes­day.

The girls, with prin­ci­pal Doug White, ap­pealed to coun­cil­lors to make the cross­ing be­tween the Clyde town­ship and Otago Rail Trail on State High­way 8 safe for their jour­neys to school.

The pupils, who all bike to school, de­scribed the ter­ror they ex­pe­ri­enced while try­ing to cross the busy high­way.

‘‘Our par­ents only just started let­ting us bike and it’s only in the sum­mer­time,’’ Amy His­lop said.

‘‘Will you wait un­til some­one has an an in­ci­dent oc­cur? Please pre­vent it now, please,’’ she said.

Many pupils chose not to bike be­cause they were scared, while oth­ers found it dif­fi­cult vis­it­ing friends in Clyde and at­tend­ing sports prac­tice, she said.

In­fra­struc­ture man­ager Jon Kings­ford told the meet­ing an un­der­pass op­tion Ful­ton Ho­gan had quoted was about $300,000. The coun­cil could spend up to $250,000 un­der its mi­nor im­prove­ments pro­gramme, leav­ing a $50,000 short­fall.

‘‘We have to come up with in­no­va­tive ways to come up with that fund­ing,’’ he said.

Lep­per said there had been a ‘‘real surge’’ from the com­mu­nity and the coun­cil was the ‘‘clos­est it has ever been’’ mov­ing on the project, which was the top pri­or­ity of the coun­cil’s mi­nor im­prove­ments pro­gramme.

He said the coun­cil would ex­plore other fund­ing sources and come up with the short­fall to get the project mov­ing.

The New Zealand Trans­port Author­ity an­nounced to coun­cil last year it had dropped the un­der­pass off its pri­or­ity list.

Cr Stu Dun­can said the un­der­pass was the ‘‘big­gest safety is­sue fac­ing Cen­tral Otago’’.

‘‘We can­not take any more – the pres­sure that is build­ing up...If we have a fa­tal­ity, God help you.’’

He ques­tioned NZTA com­ing to the coun­cil when they wanted coun­cil sup­port to al­low 50-tonne trucks driv­ing on the high­ways, yet when the coun­cil wanted a safe path­way for chil­dren us­ing bikes on the high­way the NZTA was not be­hind them.

Lep­per said he had a re­cent ‘‘scary’’ ex­pe­ri­ence try­ing to move Clyde School pupils across the high­way.

‘‘It took half and hour. It was more than scary ... It was an eye opener.’’

Sub­mit­ter Ja­nine Neville said she was the voice for over 700 people who had signed a pe­ti­tion sup­port­ing a sub­mis­sion for an un­der­pass. ‘‘The safety of ev­ery user of the ex­ist­ing cross­ing can­not be guar­an­teed. The chil­dren, in­clud­ing school groups, the lo­cals, the tourists and the mo­torists are all at risk of se­ri­ous in­jury or death, when, not if, there is an ac­ci­dent.’’

The cross­ing used by school groups was ‘‘ter­ri­fy­ing’’ for adults try­ing to safely cross their chil­dren, she said. Tourists were also of­ten un­aware of the dan­gers of the high­way cross­ing, and not al­ways con­cen­trat­ing on cross­ing the high­way, she said.

Mo­torists were also ex­posed to a ‘‘scary ex­pe­ri­ence’’ when a cy­clist sud­denly ap­peared at the edge of the high­way or there were a group of cy­clists at­tempt­ing to cross the high­way to­gether.

‘‘We all feel strongly that an un­der­pass join­ing Clyde town­ship with the Otago Cen­tral Rail Trail must be­come a re­al­ity for the safety of ev­ery­one. Mak­ing the un­der­pass a re­al­ity could be life­sav­ing.’’

Sub­mit­ter Daphne Hull said: ‘‘The growth that is oc­cur­ring in Clyde and the proac­tive ap­proach be­ing taken to pro­mote all they have to of­fer is be­ing held back by the bar­rier of the un­safe cross­ing of SH8. There are un­der­passes all over the coun­try now, es­pe­cially with the growth in dairy­ing ...

‘‘Please. For the safety of all, please en­sure progress is made on an un­der­pass across SH8 as soon as pos­si­ble.’’

Per­sua­sive: Clyde School prin­ci­pal Doug White with pupils Amy His­lop, Fin­lay Rus­sel and Zoe His­lop, who swayed the Cen­tral Otago Coun­cil.

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