School wants to stay

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Carly Tawhiao

PLANS to turn a Hills­bor­ough school into an art gallery carpark have par­ents up in arms.

At least 50 Monte Ce­cilia School sup­port­ers turned up to the Auck­land City Coun­cil’s arts, cul­ture and recre­ation meet­ing last week to con­vince coun­cil­lors to re­po­si­tion the school rather than move it a kilo­me­tre.

“We wouldn’t want to con­sider re­lo­ca­tion un­til we have ex­hausted all other op­tions,” trustees chair­man Dun­can McGill says.

But a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing signed be­tween the Catholic Dio­cese landown­ers leaves the school out of the ne­go­ti­a­tion pic­ture.

“Un­der the Pub­lic Works Act, the coun­cil can ac­quire the land for a park so the dio­cese has no choice,” Mr McGill says.

He says a res­o­lu­tion was passed to get of­fi­cers to in­ves­ti­gate op­tions other than re­lo­cat­ing the school to the St John Vian­ney parish a kilo­me­tre away.

A sur­vey re­turned by two- thirds of the school’s 218 fam­i­lies showed that 92.5 per­cent op­posed the move.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful school among rolling hills. This land was gifted to Auck­land to help chil­dren, and the coun­cil wants to put a carpark there,” says one par­ent.

“Mil­lions will be spent to re­lo­cate so James Wal­lace can house his art col­lec­tion. I’m sure plenty of ratepay­ers will have some­thing to say about that.”

An­other par­ent was con­cerned about the boggy grounds at St John Vian­ney, which would be ex­pen­sive to drain, as well as the lack of trans­parency.

“It’s like the church has gone be­hind the school’s back. It’s ob­vi­ous chil­dren are not a pri­or­ity, but the coun­cil is happy to name the park af­ter the school.”

Monte Ce­cilia School, lo­cated on the grounds of Monte Ce­cilia Park, which is also home to the Pah Homestead, was opened in 1952.

The site has been used for ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses for 108 years. In 2002, the homestead and sur­round­ing land was pur­chased by the coun­cil and ear­marked as Auck­land’s next premier park.

Re­fur­bish­ment of the homestead is un­der way. It will house the $50 mil­lion James Wal­lace Arts col­lec­tion.

It will also be a con­fer­ence and wed­ding venue that can host artists and writ­ers.

Coun­cil­lor Greg Moyle says the prob­lem with Monte Ce­cilia School’s con­cerns is that the land it sits on is owned by the dio­cese and not the school board.

“We all see the value of re­tain­ing the school, whether it’s on that site or an­other site,” he says.

“I think it was a mis­take 50 years ago to build the school on that site. Some­one had no vi­sion.”

Deputy mayor David Hay says it is to every­one’s ad­van­tage to get some fi­nal­ity.

Dio­cese spokes­woman Lind­say Freer says while ne­go­ti­a­tions are pro­ceed­ing, it would be in­ad­vis­able for the dio­cese to com­ment.

Coun­cil of­fi­cers will re­port back to the com­mit­tee about al­ter­na­tive op­tions by March.

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