A group of rural school students who spent hours counting cars, calculating how long it took to cross the road and consulting their community have prompted a full review of road safety around rural schools.
About 15 pupils from Lake Rerewhakaaitu School asked the council's strategy, policy and finance committee to support the lowering of the speed limit through the village from 70km/h to 50 km/h. They also asked for a 40 km/h speed limit in front of the school during school hours.
The pupils presented their case to the Rural Community Board last month after doing research and preparing a report in support of their submission.
They counted 115 vehicles passing the school in three hours one morning, including 26 trucks and four tractors.
They calculated the time it took for vehicles to pass the school and the time it took for different age groups to cross the road to determine how much buffer time they had.
"There are many concerning numbers. Room 2, made up of 7 to 8-year-olds, have -1.26 seconds of buffer on the road with a car going 50km/h. This is highly concerning," one pupil told the council committee.
The lowering of the speed limit is a no brainer.
A roadside speed camera placed by the school for two days clocked one vehicle going 95km/h in the 70km/h zone.
The pupils found that only three of the school's pupils walked to school and the others biked, bused or were driven in cars.
"We asked a few of these students why they don't walk. The most common answer was because it was too dangerous and their parents wouldn't let them," the report said.
The pupils asked the council to reduce the speed limit outside the school to 40 km/h or install a zebra crossing or speed bumps.
They also collected letters of support from the Log Transport Safety Council, T.D. Haulage, Fonterra and the Rerewhakaaitu Playcentre.
The council committee members recommended to the full council that staff do a comprehensive road safety review including assessing posted speed limits around all rural schools.
The committee asked that officers report back to the council with findings and recommendations.
Mayor Steve Chadwick said she couldn't believe the depth of the research the pupils had done.
Board member Phill Thomass said the students' research had blown the committee members away and he supported the speed limit change.
"The lowering of the speed limit is a no brainer."
The school's principal, Patricia Purdie, told the committee the children and their teacher had been the drivers behind the presentation.
"I do urge you to move towards lowering the speed limit; it would increase the safety outside of our school exponentially."
When asked if the students had enjoyed their project, one replied: "It's a lot of work and it was really challenging but I'm sure a lot of us enjoyed putting it together and bringing it here."
Committee member Eugene Berryman-Kamp said the pupils' report had been circulated to the Te Tatau o Te Arawa Board and schools like Ngāti Rongomai and Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata had expressed interest in using the same methodology.
Some committee members were concerned widening the scope of the investigation to include other schools would delay action at Lake Rerewhakaaitu.
"While it's good to go district-wide, the evidence is in front of us that something needs to be done at Rerewhakaaitu now," councillor Charles Sturt said.
The council's infrastructure group manager Stavros Michael said the council still needed to follow correct processes when changing speed limits, which would including consultation and working with NZTA if required.
He said council officers would report back as soon as possible.
Other rural schools spoken to by the Rotorua Daily Post after the meeting welcomed the review.
Horohoro School principal Pirihira Brown said nosigns around the school indicated people should slow down so the review was a "brilliant idea".
She hoped road signs telling people to slow down around schools or a speed bump would help.
Waikite Valley School principal Teresa Topp agreed signswould help with road safety.
The speed limit outside the school is 70km/h but Topp said most locals drove slower. It was other motorists who didn't stick to the limit because they weren't aware of the school.
"If there was a lower limit that's only going to be positive. Anything that keeps the kids safer is a good thing."
Ngakuru School principal Gareth Cunliffe echoed the comments and said he would welcome a 40km/h speed limit past the school and better signs.
"Our kids are just as important as urban kids. Why should it be any different to urban schools? It should be exactly the same."
Cunliffe said the school had previously had some close calls and had changed its before- and after-school traffic management so children were always picked up and dropped off on the side of the road the school was on.