Anger at rebuild de­lay

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ROSE CAW­LEY

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.’’

Kaye says

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.

‘‘Enough says.

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.’’.


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