Two school sites cost $17 million

By James Beech of the Otago Daily Times

Looking out over the Wakatipu Basin from Skippers Canyon near Queenstown. Photo / Dean Purcell
Looking out over the Wakatipu Basin from Skippers Canyon near Queenstown. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Ministry of Education has spent $17 million on land for two new schools in the Wakatipu basin.

According to purchase agreements released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act (OIA), the ministry paid $3.3 million for land for the proposed new primary school at the heart of the Shotover Country greenfield residential development from owner Shotover Country Ltd, and $13.7 million to Remarkables Park Ltd for land earmarked for the new site of the Wakatipu High School.

In response to OIA questions from the ODT, the ministry again gave 2017 as the opening date for the relocated Wakatipu High School in Remarkables Park, 10km from its Fryer St site, subject to ministerial approval and funding.

However, the ministry "has not initiated work for this relocation, or for the disposal of the existing site," it said.

The responses come after months of silence from the ministry to calls by principals, boards of trustees and parents for firm details of its future plans for education in Queenstown.

Statistics New Zealand, last October, predicted an extra 17,400 people would be living in the Queenstown Lakes district by 2031, increasing annually until then at a rate of 2.2 per cent. The district's population was 24,100 in 2006.

Parents who bought property in Lake Hayes Estate knowing it was within the enrolment zone of Remarkables Primary School at Frankton, were shocked when the ministry ordered the board of trustees to shrink the $17.3 million school's enrolment zone on April 23 last year after just two and a-half years of operation.

The revised zone excluded Lake Hayes Estate but included Jack's Point, a resort which experienced a sharp increase in home ownership inquiries.

Last November Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Minister Craig Foss announced 3ha in the middle of the 120ha Shotover Country development had been secured for a 450-pupil primary school, which is not expected to open until February 2015.

This was welcomed by Remarkables Primary School board chairwoman Fiona Woodham.

However, the Frankton school already consistently teaches more pupils than its official 460 capacity.

A double classroom unit is set to be delivered to Remarkables Primary School in time for the beginning of term one later this month. Two further teaching spaces are to be available by the end of term two, to cater for the overflowing population.

Details are scarce about the Wakatipu High School's relocation of 700 pupils and 70 staff, other than the ministry's announcement in July, 2012 it had secured 8ha of land at Remarkables Park for either the relocation of Queenstown's only secondary school, or a new school for 1500 pupils.

However, that school was not expected to open until at least 2017.

Meanwhile, the Wakatipu school board has no choice, but to make the best of the crowded site including the construction of the $1.3 million Robertson block for drama and music, which opened last year.

Principal Steve Hall told the ODT he understood the school community would be consulted on the development of the new school.

"I would envisage that process probably starting in 2014 and running through 2015 and a build in 2016, but all that needs to be confirmed with the ministry."

- Otago Daily Times

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