By Mick Jensen
Two senior students at Mt Somers Springburn School are concerned at the speed of cars and trucks passing in front of their school and are behind a campaign to reduce the speed limit from 70kmh to 50kmh.
If the limit is lowered, the school will then be able to install and run a kea crossing system that will further increase crossing safety.
Year 8 students Jess Heaven and Will Murphy are part of the school’s team of eight bus monitors and both have seen close calls involving students and speeding motorists on Ashburton Gorge Road.
Not all drivers were slowing down when they come past the school, Jess said.
“We have big trucks coming past the school on the way to the limeworks and drivers heading to the lakes, and we want the speed limit reduced to ensure greater safety for students,” she said.
Around 25 of the school’s 80 or so pupils live in the township and cross the road to get to school and back home again every day.
The school playground is also a popular spot with local children outside of school hours, and also visitors and families staying in the nearby campground over summer.
Will said the wider community was getting behind the call to reduce the speed zone to 50kmh.
“If the speed limit is not lowered, using the kea crossing system is not an option,” he said.
It is not the first time the speed limit has been questioned by pupils and residents.
The road is not a State highway and lowering the speed is at the discretion of Ashburton District Council.
“We have spoken to the council and explained our concerns and we are hopeful something can be done.
“The council has indicated that a community survey that shows support for the lower speed limit will help the case for change,” Will said.
A community survey is a strong possibility.
The two school leaders have also spoken with the Mt Somers Citizens Association about their concerns.
Jess said the association had confirmed the speed limit debate had been raised a number of years ago, but had fallen on deaf ears, primarily because it was cited that there were not enough houses (or letterboxes) along the stretch of road to justify the change.
“There are more houses built or being built now, so that excuse no longer applies,” she said.
Although both Jess and Will are set to leave Mt Somers Springburn School at the end of the year, both still have siblings who will continue to attend.
“We won’t see the benefit of a lower speed limit ourselves, but we want all future children at the school to feel safer when crossing the road,” said Jess.
Mt Somers Springburn School principal Sean Wansburgh said the road crossing concern was an issue seen “first hand” by Jess, Will and others, and identified as an accident waiting to happen.
“The school has two mature students who are leading the charge for change and we are very proud of them.”
McCann, Ashburton council’s group manager – service delivery, has confirmed that the speed limit review request at Mt Somers and requests at other locations around the district will feature in a proposal that will go out for public consultation in the new year. The consultation will be followed by hearings and final decisions to be made by council.