Open school zone mooted

The Press - - Front Page - Matt Slaugh­ter and Liz McDon­ald

Cen­tral Christchurch could be made an open school zone in a plan aimed at at­tract­ing res­i­dents to the in­ner city.

The idea arose this week at a meet­ing of the Cen­tral City De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum – a group com­pris­ing the mayor and coun­cil­lors, res­i­dents groups, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the pro­mo­tional, busi­ness, res­i­dents and prop­erty sec­tors.

Fo­rum mem­bers were dis­cussing Project 8011, a city coun­cil ini­tia­tive aimed at boost­ing re­pop­u­la­tion within the four av­enues.

The coun­cil orig­i­nally set a tar­get of 20,000 in­ner-city res­i­dents by 2024, but have de­layed that to 2028 in the face of a slow re­pop­u­la­tion. About 6000 peo­ple now live be­tween the four av­enues, a third lower than be­fore the earthquakes.

Other pro­posed in­cen­tives to en­cour­age res­i­dents have in­cluded of­fer­ing low-eq­uity loans and de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tion re­bates for de­vel­op­ers.

Har­courts real es­tate agent Mark O’Lough­lin sup­ported the idea but said high prices for big­ger homes in the cen­tral city re­mained an ob­sta­cle for fam­i­lies.

Many still val­ued the life­style of liv­ing on larger sec­tions, and did not see the cen­tral city as an op­tion, he said.

As zon­ing rules stand now, part of the western cen­tral city is in zone for Christchurch Girls’ and Christchurch Boys’ high schools.

The eastern side, in­clud­ing the east frame area, where 900 new homes will be built, is out­side any state high school zones.

Stu­dents not in a zone can ei­ther at­tend a non-zoned school, en­ter a bal­lot for a zoned school, or pay to at­tend an in­de­pen­dent school.

The only non-zoned high school close to the cen­tral city is Ha­gley Com­mu­nity Col­lege. Ao Tawhiti Un­lim­ited Dis­cov­ery school, which is re­build­ing in the cen­tral city now, has not had a zone in pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tions.

Cen­tral City Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Paul Lons­dale said the idea was a good one and should be ex­plored fur­ther. ‘‘It would give peo­ple the op­tion to send their kids wher­ever they like. We need to en­cour­age fam­i­lies to be part of a new cen­tral city.

‘‘Some peo­ple think liv­ing in town could hin­der their chil­dren’s school­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.’’

Lons­dale did not be­lieve num­bers would sig­nif­i­cant enough to cause prob­lems for schools.

Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion deputy sec­re­tary for sec­tor en­able­ment and sup­port Ka­t­rina Casey was not aware of the pro­posal but ‘‘happy to dis­cuss it with coun­cil’’.

Prin­ci­pals at pop­u­lar high schools across the city took is­sue with the open-zone sug­ges­tion.

Cash­mere High School prin­ci­pal Mark Wil­son said sub­ur­ban schools and res­i­dents would suf­fer if the idea went any fur­ther.

‘‘If peo­ple are liv­ing in the cen­tral city and choose to come to, say, Cash­mere High School and our roll grows too large, we would end up hav­ing to re­duce our lo­cal zone to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple from the cen­tral city.’’

Wil­son said that with 2000 stu­dents Cash­mere was near ca­pac­ity, and it was al­ready hav­ing to re­duce its zone size.

‘‘It would give peo­ple the op­tion to send their kids wher­ever they like.’’ Cen­tral City Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Paul Lons­dale

Tak­ing in cen­tral city stu­dents would put too much pres­sure on the school and be un­fair on those just out of zone, he said.

Burn­side High School prin­ci­pal Phil Hol­stein said although he un­der­stood the logic be­hind the idea, he thought it would undo four years of work spent im­prov­ing Christchurch’s zon­ing sys­tem. ‘‘I see the ap­peal in it, but don’t think this is the way to do it.

‘‘This just seems like a curve­ball that could undo all of the good work we’ve al­ready done.’’

Christchurch Boys’ High prin­ci­pal Nic Hill said his school’s roll was also at ca­pac­ity but did not share the same con­cerns as Wil­son and Hol­stein. ‘‘I think it’s un­likely a pro­posal like this will go ahead.’’

The fi­nal de­ci­sion was ul­ti­mately one for school boards and the min­istry to make, he said.

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