Parents fed up with $75 school bus fare
Parents of some students at Tauriko School are growing frustrated at having to pay for bus travel for their children to attend school.
Families living in the top end of Omanawa and in Ruahihi are classed as being in the Kaimai School bus zone and therefore must pay for the service. It costs $75 per child, per term. Children below 787 Omanawa Road are eligible for a free bus service.
Kathryn Stewart is a parent of a student at Tauriko School. She says at least 13-15 students in Omanawa are impacted by this issue.
She believes paying this fee for students to attend school is simply not acceptable.
“Anyone above this address has to pay $75 per child, per term which is a terrible additional cost for parents of primary school children to pay,” says Kathryn.
“The majority of properties up here are not affluent, not that this should be a factor anyway when it comes to children getting to school.
“I’m also not sure why we have to absorb this cost when the Lakes and Cambridge road buses are now free for Tauriko School.”
The Tauranga Transport Network Group comprises 13 primary, intermediate and secondary schools in and around Tauranga.
They are funded to operate rural school bus services but suggest they have no option but to recover costs for those students who travel to a school outside their respective bus zone.
“TTNG aims to offer an enhanced service to families throughout the district, a service which supports their ability to choose to bypass the nearest school to attend a more distant school,” says a TTNG spokesperson.
“This does, however, result in extra costs to the Group and the only option available to recover these costs is through charging fares to students that do not attend their nearest school.
“Given the extraordinary growth in student numbers across the district, the fares received are critical to the ongoing financial viability of the Group. Reducing or eliminating fares for some students would create an inequity in comparison to others.”
Tauriko School say they simply do not have the funding to provide free transport.
“The school doesn't have the funding to provide for school transport,” says Suzanne Billingham, Principal at Tauriko School.
“We do tell parents that if they get their children to the bus stop in the eligible zone that the bus will take them into school from there for free.”
But Kathryn does not believe this is a sustainable solution.
“Anyone travelling past Tauriko School at 2.30pm will find cars are lined up on the road’s medium trying to turn right into the school car park to collect kids. I’ve sat there myself and frankly it’s terrifying with vehicles passing either side of my car, many not abiding to the 40km school zone,” says Kayhryn
“It's unsafe, certainly not environmentally friendly with all these cars on the road and to be honest, parents up the top end of Omanawa will just add to this congestion by driving down to collect our kids if we're forced to pay the bus fees.”
The Ministry of Education confirmed that the students in question will be eligible for free transport should they travel to the bus stops within the Tauriko transport zone first.
The MOE made it clear they have no intention to change these zones and suggest this is indicative of a wider nationwide issue.
“These students live in the Kaimai School transport eligibility zone (TEZ), outside of the Tauriko School TEZ,” says a MOE spokesperson.
“The Ministry sets the TEZ based on the midpoint between the two Year 1-8 schools, and there is no intention to change these zones.
“If these students were enrolled at their closest school, Kaimai School, they would be eligible for a Ministry daily bus service. This situation occurs throughout New Zealand where students choose not to attend their closest school.”
Kathryn believes action needs to be taken as free bus transport to school should be available for all children in the region.
“We are really fed up hitting our heads against brick walls because for years parents in Omanawa have tried raising this issue with Kaimai School, Tauriko School and the Ministry of Education.”