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Mum will travel 258 km a week to meet school bus

Matawai School

12 March 2008

Mum will travel 258 km a week to meet school bus

One rural mum will have to travel 258 km a week so her children can meet the school bus, East Coast MP Anne Tolley heard earlier this week.

Tara and Dean Hunt, who farm Burnage Station, currently ferry their children 20 km a week to meet one of the Matawai School buses. But that will blow out to a massive 258 km a week in May following a Ministry of Education review of school transport routes in the region.

“That’s like a trip from Gisborne to Napier once a week”, said Mrs Hunt.

“I will have to travel nearly 13 km, four times a day. We will be leaving at 10 to eight, and then I will be leaving at 10 to two to meet them again.

“Considering we are farming, and it takes an hour to get to our back yards, it doesn’t leave much time in the day to do any work. It’s certainly going to hit the back pocket too in terms of cost.”

The Ministry of Education school transport review has meant reductions and cuts in bus services for six of Gisborne’s rural schools: Matawai, Ngatapa, Motu, Te Karaka, Rere, and Ohuka.

Earlier this week parents and teachers from Matawai, Ngatapa and Waerenga-o-kuri vented their frustrations to Ms Tolley, who recently became National’s Education Spokesperson.

Ms Tolley said her party had no firm policy on school bus routes “but in the first instance we will try to get a halt while we get a review”. She is meeting Minister of Education Chris Carter on Tuesday to “plead with the Minister to stop the immediacy” for meeting policy requirements.

Under school transport policy, unless special exceptions exist, there needs to be four or more children living down a side road or road extension before the Ministry of Education will fund transport.

Parent Wayne Gault, who lives seven kilometres down a side road, said “this is just another policy that is going to disintegrate the community.”

Matawai School parent, Rebecca Williams, said her family lived 30km from Matawai School and 25 km from Rere School, so her children were affected which ever school they attended.

Currently she is faced with two hours a day travelling on a winding gravel road to connect her children with a school bus.

“We’ve made the decision to send our kids to Matawai School and we drive 52 km a day to meet the bus. But now we have been told that will have to be extended to 60km and I will be doing 300 km a week. The driving would be less if we went to Rere, but not by much.”

“We are really isolated on our farm, and we will keep bringing them in, but where will it end?”

Parents told Ms Tolley it would become harder to attract staff with families for farm jobs, as one of the first questions they ask is ‘how good is the school?’ and ‘where does the bus come to?.’

This was bad news for those working in the sheep and beef sector as these families had already been hit by drought conditions, rising costs, and less than economic returns.

Families have been told by the Ministry of Education they can be subsidized for the extra travel, but Matawai School principal Nik House, who organised the meeting, said “that doesn’t even get them down the driveway”.

“A one-size-fits-all approach has been shown to be unworkable. Policy that works for urban schools does not necessarily work for rural schools. We are unique and special and the Ministry should consider creating policy that supports our unique challenges.”

ENDS

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