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‘Students can’t hear’: Principal joins calls for road safety, noise improvements along stretch of Taranaki state highway

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'Students can't hear': Principal joins calls for road safety, noise improvements along stretch of Taranaki state highway

A petition has been launched to have the speed limit through a Taranaki township reduced to improve safety and reduce road noise, which is so bad the nearby school can’t open its windows – breaking Covid-19 advice.

The Ministry of Education recommends opening windows and doors to ventilate classrooms to slow the spread of Covid-19, but Egmont Village School is unable to do so because when they are open students and teachers can barely hear each other, principal Raewyn Rutherford said.

She, the school’s board of trustees, residents and business owners in the community, which lies along State Highway 3, launched the claim a week ago and already have more than 600 signatures.

Drivers currently have to reduce their speed from 100kmh to 70khm when entering the village, but the group want Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to lower it to 50kmh.

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They are also calling for the immediate installation of digital speed signage, a ‘no engine braking’ sign and ‘major intersection ahead’ sign.

They believe this will make the area safer, and reduce the road noise the school is currently battling.

The school, which has a roll of more than 170 children, is near a busy intersection used by trucks to access industrial areas towards Bell Block, and it also has access to North Egmont Visitors Center on Taranaki Maunga.

Egmont Village School principal Raewyn Rutherford says when classroom windows are open the noise of the traffic outside is a huge disruption, which is why they keep them closed the majority of the time – against Minstry of Education Covid-19 advice.

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

Egmont Village School principal Raewyn Rutherford says when classroom windows are open the noise of the traffic outside is a huge disruption, which is why they keep them closed the majority of the time – against Minstry of Education Covid-19 advice.

In a letter to support the petition, Rutherford said noise had always been a problem for the school.

“The front three classrooms have never been able to open their front windows as the traffic noise has made it difficult for the students to hear their teachers, especially those children with auditor problems.

“Losing the windows in summer has meant using the air-conditioner units to cool the classrooms rather than using windows at both sides of the classrooms to allow air flow – this is an expensive alternative to opening windows.”

Rutherford said maintaining good ventilation in schools was recommended at all levels of the Covid-19 Protection Framework.

As well as the noise, the highway was extremely hazardous at peak drop off and pick up times, she said.

“We have already had a parent involved in a serious crash, it would be tragic for a fatal accident to occur involving a carload or bus load of children especially when this could perhaps have been prevented by a better traffic management plan.”

Fed up with the safety and noise issues, Jenny Coulson, who has lived in Egmont Village for 40 years, founded the Egmont Village Safety Improvements Group.

She has been trying to get the speed limit changed for two years.

“When we look at Urenui, it is 50kmh and has a sign that says 50km in 200 metres, it has everything we need.

“We appreciate changing the speed limit takes time, and it has to go to higher powers, but we need interim changes now, people want a safer intersection.”

Jenny Coulson, Melisa Bedford, Hendrik Hofstee with Meg the dog and Bill Woodd are part of the Egmont Village Safety Improvements Group, which is petitioning for the changes.

SIMON O’CONNOR/Stuff

Jenny Coulson, Melisa Bedford, Hendrik Hofstee with Meg the dog and Bill Woodd are part of the Egmont Village Safety Improvements Group, which is petitioning for the changes.

Coulson has a meeting with Sarah Downs from Waka Kotahi on February 16 and is hoping to get some interim changes such as signage stating 70kmh in 200 metres, no engine breaking, and major intersection ahead.

“We’ve got so many huge trucks coming through now and a lot of them use Egmont Rd as access to the industrial areas.

“Some of the truckies are fantastic and some of them are cowboys.”

In a statement Waka Kotahi manager Sarah Downs said the organization was currently identifying roads across the country where reviewing speed limits could make a difference.

“In November and December last year we undertook community engagement on speed limits on a number of Taranaki state highways, including SH3 New Plymouth to Hāwera and SH3A.

“We received over 660 pieces of feedback during the review which we are currently analysing.”

Downs said before making any changes they would consult with the public and depending on the review new speed limits could be implemented by the end of the year.

Downs said Waka Kotahi was investigating additional safety measures such as signage in response to the feedback they received last year too.

“This may include incorporating the section of state highway through Egmont Village, which is currently being considered as part of the SH3A/SH3 Egmont Village to Hāwera feasibility work, into the SH3 New Plymouth to Egmont Village works, to expedite delivery.”

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