Anger at rebuild delay
ONE OF the biggest school rebuild projects in the country is again on shaky ground.
The board of trustees at Western Springs College is pointing the finger at the Ministry of Education’s handling of the project.
The decile 8 school was built on a restored landfill site in 1963 but the land and buildings have caused headaches ever since. Talk of a rebuild started about 2011.
In an update sent to parents on April 22, the board said it was ‘‘wholly dissatisfied’’ with the process to rebuild the school and ‘‘refused to engage further with officials’’.
Chairman Rob Coltman says that iss because of concerns the ministry has misled the school community and board.
‘‘The board understood the Ministry of Education was to present redevelopment business case options to Cabinet which would include the community’s preferred full rebuild option, and it had told the community so.
‘‘It now appears that the full rebuild option is not to be included after all,’’ he says.
Patience with the rebuild process was ‘‘spent’’.
‘‘An entire five-year student cohort has now passed through the school since rebuild plans were instigated in late 2011 and all but essential building maintenance has been delayed.’’
A full rebuild is the only way forward, Coltman says.
‘‘It’s the safest way to address the issues associated with location on a former landfill site, the best way to incorporate the Rumaki (the school’s Maori immersion unit) and to make sure the school is community facing – literally.’’
The ministry has responded to the board’s move with a request to meet.
Coltman said the board would do so ‘‘provided its concerns are addressed’’.
But Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye says it is just a ‘‘ miscommunication about the process’’.
‘‘The ministry is currently seeking feedback from the school, so that ministers clearly understand the school’s preferences and any concerns they may have.’’
Any investment more than $25 million has to be considered by Cabinet.
‘‘Cabinet does not make decisions about design. The ministry will work to develop a design which will deliver modern education facilities to provide value and longterm viability to the Crown and the school.’’
she understands and sympathises with people’s desire for the project to go faster.
‘‘However, given the geotechnical issues and scale and complexity of the project, I would hope people also understand the desire and need to be robust about potential options,’’ she says.
‘‘While it has taken longer than some people have wanted, we get one chance in decades to get this right.’’
The ministry has spent about $1.9m on design, consultancy fees and technical reports.
Parent Stephen KnightLenihan says parents have played the waiting game for years with nothing to show for it.
For the last year the community has believed they are on the brink of a solution only to be told ‘oh, no, not this time, at the next meet-
is enough,’’ he ing’,’’ Knight-Lenihan says.
‘‘The money is there, as far as we can see the political commitment is there, but there is no clarity on what they are going to spend the money on.’’
The board is in a position’’, he says.
‘‘The ministry has said the options that are being discussed can’t be made public for commercial reasons.
‘‘At the end of the day we [the parents] don’t get to see the detail and the poor old board is sitting there saying: ‘Yes we have the detail but we can’t share it’.’’
The buildings were in bad shape, he said.
‘‘It is cold, there is condensation, the walls are cracked, internet service is poor because it hasn’t made any sense to upgrade them.
‘‘It is becoming harder and harder to deliver good quality education . . . it is not fair on the teachers or the kids.’’.