Editorial: Backlash courted by school approach

By Dylan Thorne

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I sympathise with Papamoa residents Sandra and John Horne. The couple spoke out this week after their neighbour, Tahatai Coast School, placed barbed wire on top of the boundary fence that lines their property.

The barbed wire, attached to wooden stakes that are attached to the fence, was put up about a week ago and ran along the rear of the school, bordering on to Suffolk Cl and Checketts Place.

The Hornes said the barbed wire made the area look like a prisoner-of-war camp or a gang pad. A photograph published in the Bay of Plenty Times on Tuesday certainly appeared to support their view.

They and other neighbours were rightly concerned they were not notified and that the barbed-wire fence would devalue their home.

As it turned out the fence was too high, and, after the story appeared in the paper, it was lowered from three runs of wire to one, about 100-120mms above the existing fenceline.

The school appears to have botched this badly.

The school's principal, Jenny Griggs, said the barbed wire was needed to protect her school and students from some unsavoury activity that is being carried out by youth on the far side of the school field. This included consuming alcohol, drug taking and other "inappropriate behaviour". Apparently drug syringes and cans of alcoholic pre-mixed drinks are found there regularly.

The school has suffered a number of break-ins and it was hoped the barbed wire would close off an escape route for thieves. So, in short, there are valid reasons for the measure.

The school, while conceding the fence might not be aesthetically pleasing, points out that it is providing added security for neighbours as well as the school.

That's a fair point, and perhaps the neighbours would have been a bit more understanding if the school had taken the time to discuss the problem with them.

But while most property owners are required to consult their neighbours before building a fence, under the city plan schools are not required to as long as the fence is less than 2m high and the construction is sound.

Mrs Griggs said in hindsight she could have consulted with those affected. If she had, she may not have faced such a backlash.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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