More funds needed for ed­u­ca­tion build­ings

Whangarei Report - - News - By Jor­dan Bond

The value of con­sents for ed­u­ca­tion build­ings in North­land was up 30 per cent last year, though one leader says there is never enough money for our schools.

Ed­u­ca­tion build­ings val­ued at $13.9 mil­lion were awarded con­sent last year, an in­crease from $10.7m in 2014.

Dar­gav­ille High School’s ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mar­tine Topia said schools still strug­gled to keep up with con­struc­tion and re­pair costs, de­spite the in­crease in con­sented work.

She said the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing was in­suf­fi­cient. “It’s never enough. Ev­ery­body’s in the same boat,” Ms Topia said.

Schools are al­lo­cated fund­ing for build­ings from the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion on a five-yearly ba­sis. It must be used to up­grade, mod­ernise or re­place ex­ist­ing build­ings. The min­istry ex­pects class­rooms to be up­graded as “flex­i­ble learn­ing spa­ces” — open plan learn­ing ar­eas of vary­ing sizes to “en­cour­age and sup­port many dif­fer­ent types of learn­ing”. Schools must pay for these up­grades us­ing their five-year agree­ment.

Ms Topia said some is­sues were not likely to be fixed for at least 10 years due to stretched bud­gets. How­ever, she un­der­stood the min­istry had fund­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and she sym­pa­thised with other pub­licly funded ser­vices which were also feel­ing the pinch.

In a writ­ten re­sponse, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Jerome Shep­pard said this year the min­istry ex­pected to spend twice as much on school prop­erty as it did three years ago. He said the Min­istry asks schools to pri­ori­tise prop­erty fund­ing to make sure build­ings are healthy and safe.

“If a school had health and safety is­sues, we would help them use their fund­ing to ad­dress those. If they didn’t have suf­fi­cient funds, we would step in im­me­di­ately. The safety of the stu­dents and staff is our first con­cern,” he said.

Mr Shep­pard said the Gov­ern­ment had al­lo­cated $300 mil­lion over the next six years to as­sist schools with “com­plex prop­erty is­sues” which could not be fixed from their reg­u­lar bud­get.

The value of con­sents for ed­u­ca­tion build­ings rose 58 per cent in 2015, up $404 mil­lion to $1.1 bil­lion. Ter­tiary build­ings ac­counted for more than half of the in­crease. A $15m con­tract to re­build “ap­palling” class­rooms at North­land Col­lege was an­nounced last year, though this project was not in­cluded in last year’s con­sent to­tal.

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