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Ban on tree-climbing remains

PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

ELISA VORSTER
[email protected]

Greytown School is not backing down on its tree-climbing ban.

A Board of Trustees meeting had the school refusing to change its policy, despite pressure from some parents.

One parent, who did not wish to be named, believed it was the only school in the region to still impose the ban, and was concerned the school’s pupils were being wrapped up in cotton wool.

The parent wants to see the school return to its country roots and believes signing a waiver allowing their children to climb trees would be a suitable solution.

But that wouldn’t satisfy WorkSafe, which administers the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Under the act, principals can be fined up to $600,000 if someone is hurt at school.

Greytown School staff concerns stem from the fact most of the school’s trees overhang the school’s fence or are close to concrete verges.

The school feels these could seriously injure a child falling on them.

“The decision was made by the previous principal due to health and safety issues,” principal Patrice O’Connor said.

“It was reviewed at the last meeting (of the board) and those concerns are still in place.”

A spokesperson for WorkSafe New Zealand said it had never been necessary for schools to ban tree-climbing and it was up to the school to determine how it addresses any identified risks.

But they confirmed a school could not escape responsibility through a waiver.

“It was extensively explained during the introduction of the new legislation that the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 did not ban kids climbing trees.

“It is for Greytown Primary School to explain why they have continued to ban this activity.

“What is important is that the school has examined the risk with regard to the trees that are on its grounds.

“The location, shape, height and state of a tree could be considerations of a school’s risk assessment.”

Ms O’Connor still had concerns the school would be held liable for any injury caused by a child climbing trees at school, but said her main priority had always been the health and safety of the students.

“If they could climb trees safely, we wouldn’t have any concerns.

“We have two playground areas for them to climb and an extensive Education Outside The Classroom programme where students can take physical risks such as kayaking, canoeing and cave climbing.

“They’re not missing out on anything.”

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