Open school zone mooted
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.