St Mary's School looks to expand

By Natalie Dixon

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St Mary's School principal Ben Fuller says a proposed development is vital 
to keep up with enrolment demand. Photo/John Borren
St Mary's School principal Ben Fuller says a proposed development is vital to keep up with enrolment demand. Photo/John Borren

A proposed $2 million expansion at St Mary's School promises to boost its roll by 30 per cent, create five new teaching jobs and see a state of the art library built.

The development includes extra classrooms, 36 additional staff car parks and a new bus bay and pickup/drop off zone created on 13th Ave.

Principal Ben Fuller said the expansion was vital for the future of the popular school.

However, not everyone is happy with the plan.

A petition with 37 signatures against the expansion had been sent to the Tauranga City Council and 10 people were to oppose the plan at a hearing in Tauranga today.

Residents were to raise concerns over increased traffic, the removal of established trees in 13th Avenue, noise and community safety.

Some also questioned the school's ability to expand based on its existing land use rights.

One submitter, David Simpson said the school had by way of a series of council errors been allowed to increase from nine classrooms to 16 without applying for a resource consent.

"The whole application (for further development) is flawed primarily due to its starting point," he wrote in his submission.

Another 13th Avenue resident against the plan, Estelle Wright said the plan would create traffic congestion around the school and on nearby intersections.

Grace Road and Neighbourhood Resident's Association president Peter McKinlay was today to speak on behalf of a number of submitters.

He said the majority of residents were not anti the school but they felt it had already reached its capacity.

"By and large the community regards the school as an asset and a valued neighbour but the growth of the school beyond the current roll puts pressure on its neighbours," he said.

"The majority believe the school is already pushing the envelope and is seeking to push even further into something that is out of tune with the community."

Mr Fuller said he held up to four enrolment interviews each week, with some parents enquiring about spots when their children were as young as two. "There is a lot of desire from parents to have their children at St Mary's."

Several trees would be removed if the development went ahead but the school had an extensive replanting programme planned, Mr Fuller said. He said the school had a traffic management plan in place and was happy to work to educate parents to keep any driver behaviour to a minimum.

"The reality is there is a lot of growth in this area, we have around five early childhood centers, Tauranga Intermediate and we all need to grow to keep up with demand."

The hearing will be held at City Council chambers from 9am today.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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