Insurance costs for schools skyrocket

By Kate Shuttleworth

Dozens of Christchurch schools - including Avonside Girls High School - have needed quake repair work over the past year. Photo / APN
Dozens of Christchurch schools - including Avonside Girls High School - have needed quake repair work over the past year. Photo / APN

The price tag for insurance on school buildings has gone through the roof.

It will cost the Ministry of Education over four times more this year than the year before, and school buildings in a poor state are set to cost $2.3 billion over 10 years.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows the price tag for insuring 2300 school buildings leapt to $10.4 million in the last financial year, up from the $2.4m paid to insure schools before the earthquakes in Christchurch.

After Housing New Zealand the Government's second largest publicly owned portfolio is school property, valued at $10.2b across 2300 schools and 8,000 hectares.

The escalating insurance premium paid to Vero Specialist Risks Ltd sits alongside a $2.3b bill over 10 years for property maintenance repairs, including rebuilds for earthquake-prone and leaky buildings and general repairs.

In Christchurch 86 schools were being repaired at a cost of $2.7m.

Associate Minister of Education Craig Foss has called for an independent review of how school property is provided and managed and said a report would be delivered at the end of the year.

Mr Foss could not say how much insuring school property would cost in 2012/13 and beyond.

He said the ministry was working to find the best insurance options for schools and the insurance from 2012/13 had not been finalised.

"During the Canterbury earthquakes, the cost of insurance has increased significantly. The increase was a response to the magnitude of loss caused by the Canterbury earthquakes, and New Zealand is now perceived as a higher risk area on the global insurance market," he said.

"Addressing the current range of issues affecting the school property portfolio is estimated to cost $2.3 billion over the next decade. It is imperative the Government has a clear and accurate picture of the status of school property," he said.

The education ministry's acting general manager of school's infrastructure group Jerome Sheppard said the Government spent $615m last year on maintenance, repairs and rebuilds of schools across New Zealand, including leaky buildings and those deemed to be a risk in the event of an earthquake.

In 2010/2011 the cost of repairing leaky buildings alone was $20.6m.

The reality of the price tag attached to the school property portfolio has sunk in for the Government, who this year signed a deal with Learning Infrastructure Partners for the first public-private partnership (PPP) schools.

A primary and secondary school under the PPP procurement model are being built at Auckland's Hobsonville Point.

The Education ministry will own the buildings but will have no responsibly for their design, construction, finance or maintenance.

Learning Infrastructure Partners secured the contract with the Government and were set to make $100m over 25 years ($4m a year).

Along with finding alternative ways to fund school property the Government were looking to asset sales to help fit the mounting school property insurance and maintenance bill.

Labour Party spokesperson for education Nanaia Manuta said the increase in insurance premiums would create strain in other areas of the education spend.

Mr Foss said the ministry was not currently considering any specific future PPPs.

Proceeds from partial sales of four state-owned enterprises and Air New Zealand would be directed to the Government's Future Investment Fund.

Treasury have forecast a sale of minority shareholdings could bring in $5b to $7b to the fund over the next five years.

CONTEXT FIGURES:

Insurance premiums 2010/11 - $2.4 million

Insurance premiums 2011/12 - $10.4 million

Value of school building portfolio - $10.2 billion

Cost of property maintenance and rebuilds over 10 years $2.3 billion.

Cost of repairs to 85 Christchurch schools this year - $2.7 million

Government spent last year on maintenance, repairs, and rebuilds across New Zealand - $615 million

Cost to Government of leaky buildings alone - $20.6 million

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