Passionate plea for an underpass
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.