John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Risk to kindergartens eased in council plan

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Tauranga Region Kindergarten Association principal Peter Monteith. Photo/file
Tauranga Region Kindergarten Association principal Peter Monteith. Photo/file

Fears that new council rules could put some kindergartens at risk have eased after a plea by Tauranga Regional Free Kindergarten Association principal Peter Monteith.

Early childhood education centres emerged as the most controversial issue of the policy to control community and private use of council-owned land.

Councillors agreed yesterday that no new leases would be considered for early childhood centres, except to relocate the Mount Playcentre.

Mr Monteith's concerns stemmed from the possibility of hefty increases in rents when leases came up for renewal.

"Some of the kindergartens would be at risk if they had to pay commercial rent," he told last month's hearing of submissions.

He was responding to the council saying it would take account of its "financial and future plans" when considering whether to renew a lease.

The council agreed yesterday that it would also take account of an early childhood centre's organisational, financial and future plans.

In a further concession, the council agreed it would take account of the historic association of the early childhood centre with the site and the role of the facility in the community.

The council nevertheless gave itself the flexibility to consider factors that could ultimately lead to an early childhood centre being removed when its lease came up for renewal.

These included alternative options for the site, the demand for the site from other users and the lease's impact on the purpose of owning the land.

A late addition to the policy, led by councillors Steve Morris and Leanne Brown, saw playcentres excluded from the policy's definition of early childhood education facilities.

Mr Morris also argued for the exclusion of kindergartens on the basis that kindergartens and playcentres required a great deal more community goodwill than the business model for other early childhood centres.

Councillor John Robson said "kindergarten" was a very broad-brush term whereas playcentres were parent-led and had a very different model to kindergartens.

Questions around the definition of a kindergarten, and whether all kindergartens were affiliated to the Free Kindergarten Association, helped convince the council to only exclude playcentres from the definition.

In another decision yesterday, the council agreed to rationalise the huge task of reviewing 14 reserve management plans and instead combine them into one network-wide management plan. With many plans overdue for their 10-year reviews, Councillor Matt Cowley supported the "fluid approach" of having a single plan for the network of reserves. Action plans for each reserve would sit outside the plan and be implemented on a prioritised basis.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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