$25m repair bill for leaky school

By Genevieve Helliwell

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Three Otumoetai schools are caught up in the leaky building saga, with one facing a repair bill of up to $25 million.

Otumoetai Primary, Otumoetai Intermediate and Otumoetai College have leaky buildings and face years of remedial work that could see buildings replaced or remodelled.

The college is the worst affected and could see up to six buildings completely rebuilt, including the $1.5 million Otumoetai Action Centre, which was built in 1990.

The Ministry of Education earlier told the school it could cost up to $25 million to repair or replace the affected buildings.

Principal Dave Randell said there was "no way the school should be in this state" as many of the buildings were remodelled about 12 years ago.

"It's sad because I'm so proud of this school," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"It is upsetting but at the same time it isn't because after this is all done it means we're going to have a modern learning environment.

"This is a major for the school and it could take years for it all to be built."

Ministry of Education representatives visited the college yesterday and discussed options of appointing a construction company and architect.

From the meeting, it looked like the school's English, science, maths, social studies classes, the canteen and possibly the action centre would need to be rebuilt, Mr Randell said.

Meanwhile, down the road, remedial work has started at Otumoetai Intermediate with administration staff operating out of the school hall.

Principal Henk Popping said the school hall and admin building were leaking. Once the 13-year-old administration block was reclad and reroofed, work on the upgrading hall would begin.

"We've also got a couple of classrooms to be done next year but we're trying to stage that so it causes the least amount of disruption on students" Mr Popping said.

Meanwhile, work costing up to $1million is set to begin at Otumoetai Primary this week.

On Friday, office staff will move into prefab buildings on the school field while the admin building is reroofed and reclad.

When completed, work will begin on two series of classrooms and the library, principal Geoff Opie said.

The library was expected to be done during the school holidays so it caused minimal disruption to the school and its student.

"The Ministry have been really good about this and I'm more concerned about the major cost this will be to the taxpayer.

"I'm annoyed because it should never have got this bad ... and the companies involved in the building of leaky schools have reconstructed themselves so they're not liable for damages.

"It's frustrating," Mr Opie said.

The Otumoetai Primary admin block, the Otumoetai Intermediate office block and the Otumoetai Action Centre were all remodelled about 12 years ago.

At that time builders did not have to be registered or licensed.

A local builder, who did not want to be named, said the leaky home issue was controversial within the industry.

He said everyone involved in the process of leaky buildings could be to blame, including architects who

designed the buildings, the council which approved the plans, the builders and the building practices that were used at the time.

"Then once the leaky home syndrome broke into the marketplace and became a major epidemic in New Zealand, the Government tried to alleviate this from happening again and reformed the Building Act and instated the licensed practitioner scheme, which makes builders take responsibility for their own work."

Other Western Bay schools have been plagued by leaks, including Tahatai Coast School in Papamoa, which was deemed New Zealand's most leaky school.

About five years ago the primary school noticed problems. Since then, everything but the hall and the administration office has been demolished.

Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga Boys' College, Tauranga Girls' College, Selwyn Ridge School, Te Akau ki Papamoa Primary School and Te Puke High School have also suffered from leaky buildings.

The Ministry of Education did not respond by the time of publication about the number of schools classified as leaky in the Western Bay of Plenty.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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