Re­prieve for school buses

Otago Daily Times - - Dunedin - JOHN GIBB

THE Otago Re­gional Coun­cil and af­fected schools have joined forces to keep with­drawn Dunedin com­mer­cial school bus ser­vices run­ning for term four.

‘‘We were right on the edge of the precipice’’ Tahuna In­ter­me­di­ate School prin­ci­pal Tony Hunter said yes­ter­day.

‘‘We had to get some­thing sorted out be­fore the hol­i­days,’’

The school hol­i­days start on Mon­day and term four be­gins in two weeks, on Oc­to­ber 16.

‘‘It’s great for term four,’’ Dunedin North In­ter­me­di­ate School prin­ci­pal Heidi Hayward said about the so­lu­tion.

Ms Hayward was pleased af­fected par­ties worked to­gether on the short­term prob­lem, and was ‘‘rea­son­ably con­fi­dent’’ long­term ar­range­ments could also be made.

The five com­mer­cial school bus ser­vices re­cently with­drawn by Go Bus from the end of term three, will now con­tinue as usual for term four.

For term four only, Dunedin North In­ter­me­di­ate and Tahuna In­ter­me­di­ate will con­tract the ser­vice, which will be un­der­writ­ten by the coun­cil with sup­port from the NZ Trans­port Agency.

Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Bodeker said the coun­cil had ne­go­ti­ated a ‘‘pos­i­tive out­come that pro­vides breath­ing space for schools to ar­range long­term safe public trans­port op­tions’’ to and from school.

This move would give schools the time they needed to find a longer­term so­lu­tion.

Dunedin South MP Clare Cur­ran was yes­ter­day pleased the af­fected ser­vices would con­tinue this year.

But it was still ‘‘very un­cer­tain’’ what the re­gional coun­cil and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion would do in ‘‘en­sur­ing th­ese ser­vices con­tinue’’ long term, and she was con­cerned the is­sue could be ‘‘swept un­der the car­pet’’.

The min­istry had a statu­tory re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide for ‘‘school trans­port as­sis­tance’’.

Coun­cil staff said through­out term four, the ser­vices con­cerned would fol­low the same routes as be­fore.

Fares would rise about 10%, as part of ef­forts to make the school bus sys­tem vi­able.

The com­pany that would op­er­ate the ser­vices was yet to be con­firmed.

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