8 October 2019
Ngakuru School Principal Gareth Cunliffe with Council Safe and Sustainable Journeys staff Jodie Lawson and Georgie Griffiths
A Rotorua school principal has welcomed a review that will help identify and mitigate road safety issues outside rural school gates.
Rotorua Lakes Council staff visited 16 rural school principals across the district taking the first steps in the road safety review sparked by a group of young students from Lake Rerewhakaaitu School.
Principal Gareth Cunliffe said Ngakuru School welcomes the Rural Road Safety Review.
“The fact that the Rotorua Lakes Council has spent valuable time consulting with us and 16 other rural schools shows us that they are taking road safety outside rural schools very seriously.”
Mr Cunliffe identified a number of concerns that were important to the school to see addressed including reducing the speed limit past the school, more visible signage, a safer drop off and pick up area and an improved street frontage with a path and crossing for pedestrians.
“The review is long overdue and at the end of the day, it is all about keeping our communities safe,” said Mr Cunliffe.
Council’s Safe and Sustainable Journeys team were tasked with the review following a presentation by Lake Rerewhakaaitu School students to the Strategy, Policy and Finance committee.
The students presented their own research, which included real speed recordings and information from their classmates and a school parent. The students sought a speed reduction or other measures to slow traffic going past their school.
Elected members supported the review outside Lake Rerewhakaaitu School as well as a district wide review recommended by Council staff. Elected members approved the Rural Road Safety Review on 27 June 2019.
Safe and Sustainable Journeys Manager Jodie Lawson said that the principals were all pleased with the initiative and the opportunity to share their concerns.
“What surprised us most was that it wasn’t just speed that was concerning the faculty and parents across the rural areas. Each school had its own unique issues depending on its location.
“Although schools located on 100km/h roads identified speed as their biggest concern, we also heard about fog being an issue, parking behaviour, signage and bus routes.
“A positive that came from visiting the schools was seeing the many excellent safety procedures in place to minimise risk and that they were more than happy to share those procedures with other schools in similar locations.”
The review will be carried out in stages. The first stage was to speak with school principals and get a first-hand view of what and where their concerns are. The next steps will involve investigations and data gathering by consultant engineers that will measure user group movements and behaviour patterns.
Council is seeking to collaborate with other stakeholders such as NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Education to coordinate together to get an improved outcome for the schools. Where schools are located on State Highways Council can advocate to the Transport Agency and pass on recommendations for any speed or signage changes.
Data will then be used to report recommendations back to Council in February 2020. An action plan and a potential budget will need to be approved and decided at that time.
Outside Lake Rerewhakaaitu School with Principal Trish Purdie-Nicholls
Council has a statutory role to set speed limits on roads under its jurisdiction and these are set under a bylaw. Council reviews posted speed limits periodically on all roads where safety concerns have been identified and speed limit changes are requested, and recommends changes where national criteria for change is met, as per NZTA’s Speed Limit Setting Rule. This ensures consistency across all roading networks and ensures any change is valid and cannot be challenged, a report to the Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee says.
The last Traffic Bylaw review was conducted in early 2018. Generally, a review of posted speed limits on the Council’s roading network is undertaken every three years for efficiency and consistency.
Following such a review, public feedback is sought regarding any proposed speed limit changes and is factored into final recommendations to Council for final decision-making.