Safe path ‘mas­sive’ for pupils

The Tribune (NZ) - - OUT & ABOUT - JA­NINE RANKIN

Twelve years since a child last biked or walked to Whakarongo School in Palmer­ston North, the first group of stu­dents ran along the James Line to Stoney Creek Rd path­way on Fri­day.

School board chair­man Phil Ward said the 1.2-kilo­me­tre path­way run­ning along­side the fenced­off rail­way line would re­lieve traf­fic con­ges­tion at school pickup and drop-off times.

‘‘It will re­de­fine how our kids get to and from school.

‘‘It will make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence in the lives of our stu­dents.’’

Hav­ing a safe route through to Kelvin Grove would also bet­ter con­nect the school and community and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for more so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

Ward said it was re­mark­able to be open­ing the path­way just one year af­ter the school put its case to a city coun­cil hear­ing for a safe and healthy al­ter­na­tive for some 500 chil­dren get­ting to and from school.

He said mayor Grant Smith and coun­cil­lors had lis­tened, and had en­abled con­struc­tion of the $230,000 fa­cil­ity that would be cher­ished by the community.

Ward said Cr Ross Lin­klater had been vi­sion­ary in driv­ing the project, and Black­leys Con­struc­tion, which built the path, had been ‘‘our dream mak­ers’’.

‘‘They have trans­formed pad­docks and mud and have done a fan­tas­tic job.’’

Direc­tor Kevin Black­ley said he and his sib­lings had been Whakarongo school pupils, when the roll was 98 and most chil­dren walked or biked to school.

Hig­gins ap­plied the hot mix and Ki­wiRail had also co-op­er­ated on the project, and J Collins did the fenc­ing to en­sure path­way users were safe away from the tracks.

A pedes­trian cross­ing over the tracks at Stoney Creek Rd would be pa­trolled by staff be­fore and af­ter school, and ac­cess to the cross­ing would be locked at other times.

Con­trac­tors had worked with the school to pro­vide an off-road link down to the school grounds.

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/FAIR­FAX NZ

Whakarongo board of trustees chair­man and po­lice Senior Sergeant Phil Ward, with Mayor Grant Smith, speaks at the of­fi­cial open­ing of the path­way, as pupils from the school look on.

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