Philippa Cameron will continue driving a 64km round trip to Kurow twice a day until she can be assured her young daughters will be safely belted in on their school bus ride.
The Otematata mother, who has more than 16,900 followers on her Instagram page What’s for Smoko, has launched a petition to get seatbelts on school buses and has managed to collect about 3000 signatures so far.
The issue made its way on to Mrs Cameron’s radar about a year ago, when her eldest daughter Flora was about to turn 5.
“I was that new mum who was looking at how my daughter was going to get to school,” she said.
It was unacceptable to Mrs Cameron that her small child, who was legally required to be in a carseat when travelling by car, could climb on to a school bus and travel along country roads at high speeds, without any type of restraint.
She was not the only mother concerned about the issue, but she was one of the lucky ones who had the time to drive her children to their Kurow School, from Otematata Station, where her and husband Joe live.
“Then you’ve got the mothers who are in a position that they can’t take their children. And then they’ve got this terrible mum guilt, you know.
“They have to put their kids on the bus and put their faith and trust in a driver, who gets to have a seatbelt, by the way.
“I feel their pain, because I understand why they have to put their children on the bus.”
In August last year, then Minister of Transport Phil Twyford had told her there was no change in sight for the laws, Mrs Cameron said.
Now new Transport Minister Michael Wood was saying the same thing, citing cost as the biggest hurdle.
The issue was a recurring one which kept rearing its head, and now, with the benefit of her social media following, Mrs Cameron thought it was her turn to “pick up the baton”.
“If I run this leg, even if it doesn’t make too much of a dint, at least it’s made noise in a sense, and you know, further down the track somebody else might have an opportunity to pick it up.
“I just think we’ve got to keep it in motion. We can’t keep putting it in the too-hard basket.
“We keep having these bus accidents, and they keep getting in the media, and I don’t think anyone’s going to take any notice of it until there’s a fatality, and I just think that’s horrendous.”
The bus service in the Waitaki Valley is run by Ritchies Coachlines.
There were only eight children on Flora’s bus run, so Ritchies had the option of carrying out the school run with a minivan, which legally had to carry seatbelts. But because the bus contract was for a 20-seater bus, they ran a 20-seater bus, she said.
have the children’s safety in their sights, they’ve just got the dollar signs.”
Ritchies’ Christchurch-based operations control manager Richard O’Keefe said there was no requirement for them to have seatbelts fitted on school buses, and until that law was changed by the Ministry of Education, they were under no obligation to fit them.
“If they decided to change, we’d fit them.”
It was not something they would choose to do of their own volition, he said.
“Because where do you stop? You’d have to put it on every vehicle.”
The “cost component” was too high.
Mrs Cameron’s online petition runs until the end of April, and then she and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean would be presenting it to parliament on May 19.
The petition was strongly supported by Federated Farmers, who would be joining them at parliament, and also Rural Women New Zealand.
The petition started off a hiss and a roar” amassing 2000 signatures in the first 24 hours, but had slowed a bit since.
People wanting to sign it could follow the link through Mrs Cameron’s Instagram page.