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Auckland's kids take millions of small steps

Saturday 28 October 2006

Auckland's kids take millions of small steps in the right direction

A unanimous vote of the Walk 21 conference committee currently being held in Melbourne has given the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) the prestigious International Walk to School (IWALK) Award for the TravelWise Schools programme.

ARTA's Acting Chief Executive, Elena Trout, said, " We are incredibly proud that our TravelWise Programme has been recognised as world-class. This award originated in Sweden, and is based on a very simple principle, that there are many good reasons we should be organising our communities and our lives so that our children can walk to school each day."

"The Auckland TravelWise Programme was launched by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, in March 2005 as part of the Auckland Sustainable Cities Programme. Less than two years later we are coordinating 198 Walking School Buses and 130 School Travel Plans, right across Auckland. The most recent independent study of the programme, in February this year, showed that there are 1 million fewer car trips in Auckland each year, and almost the same number of extra walking trips, because of TravelWise."

Dr Erica Hinckson, at the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, AUT University, says "Children are enthusiastic about TravelWise, and most children prefer to walk or cycle rather than be driven. Yet one third of New Zealand's school children get fewer than 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking to school may help decrease obesity levels and create a lifelong healthy habit."

"School kids and adults alike love the daily physical activity of the school walk. It's a great way to keep fit and make friends, and helps create a healthy sense of community. Principals report that kids who walk to school are better prepared for learning when they get into the classroom."

Anna Percy, ARTA's Sustainable Transport Manager, said she was delighted to report that, "The award was given by unanimous vote to ARTA for the significant impact the TravelWise Programme is making both on children's health and on Auckland's congestion problem.

"Also, in recognition of ARTA's work, we have now been co-opted onto the IWALK international committee."

Ms Percy said the Award has traveled around the world to get to Auckland, and would be held at ARTA for a month before traveling around all of the councils in the region.

"This award recognises the huge contribution and commitment Auckland parents, schools, local councils and central government have shown to making it safer and easier for children to walk to school. Without their efforts, TravelWise would never have happened".

In March 2006 65 Auckland Schools participated in the region's first walk to school week 'FeetFirst', on Walk to School 12,000 kids put their best foot forward to travel to and from school. Next year's Walk to School Week is happening at the beginning of March.


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