Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Flaxmere walks out school safety project

A programme designed to make it safer for students to walk, bike or scooter to and from school has seen safety improvements made outside the front gates of five Flaxmere schools.

Hastings District Council’s Heretaunga Arakura project, which is being co-funded by NZ Transport Agency – Waka Kotahi’s Streets for People programme, responds to increasing traffic volumes dropping off and picking up school students.

The congestion that’s created contributes to tamariki missing out on the independence, health benefits and road skills they get from walking, biking or scooting to school, Council said in a statement.

To address the issue, the project has seen the introduction of traffic calming measures outside schools to reduce the dangers and encourage more active transport.

These include kerb buildouts, raised platform crossings, speed cushions, planter boxes and improved accessibility and visibility at five Flaxmere schools: Te Whai Hiringa (formerly Peterhead), Flaxmere College, Flaxmere Primary, Irongate and Kimi Ora.

Hastings Mayor, Sandra Hazlehurst said that over the past 20 months, the project team had
worked closely with the five schools to co-design solutions for their individual needs, surveying communities for feedback on proposed designs, and working alongside students and principals on what ‘safer’ school journeys look like.

“Heretaunga Arakura has created calmer, more accessible neighbourhoods for students to move around safely. Using active transport is a win-win for their health and wellbeing, and reducing cars on the school run reduces emissions,” she said.

“By creating healthy habits early, we ensure a cleaner, greener future for Heretaunga.”

The project draws on the experience of the community as well as local data. More than 5,000 surveys were carried out, and intensive GIS mapping meant any changes were targeted and placed where they could have the most effect, the Mayor confirmed.

While schools were already reporting vastly improved safety levels, in the coming months
participating schools will be re-surveyed, alongside traffic monitoring, to determine any behaviour changes and improvements to speed and active transport uptake.

As part of Heretaunga Arakura, tamariki also received road skills training so they were more confident on their journeys, helping to alleviate some of the concerns whānau had about allowing active school journeys.

Hastings District Council project lead, Eynon Phillips said that with around 96% of Te Whai
Hiringa students being Māori or Pasifika, the programme team wanted to connect to the project to the school’s whakapapa.

“We asked local artist Darryl Thomson to work with students to create designs for the planter boxes outside the school. The result was spectacular, colourful designs that reflect the rich cultures, people and place the project serves.”

With prudent project management, a small amount of funding was left over, and this will be used to help Hastings Boys’ High School, Hastings Intermediate, Mahora Primary School, Camberley, St Mary’s Catholic School and St Joseph’s Primary make minor safety improvements that will have a big impact.

There’s hope that, if further funding becomes available, the project can roll out improvements to the remaining schools in Hastings, Council said.

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