Government boosts funds to keep ahead of surge in city rolls
Auckland will get nine new schools after the Government announced a $350 million funding boost in an effort to get ahead of the city's surging population and ease pressure on school rolls.
The Ministry of Education must find space for 107,000 more school-age children in the city over the next 30 years and many schools are already full-to-bursting.
Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye joined Prime Minister John Key on the campaign trail yesterday to promise the package would position schools ahead of demand.
The $350 million package would be paid for by asset sales proceeds and fund nine new schools, the purchase of land and 130 new classrooms. Locations of the schools are to be determined but four are likely in the north of greater Auckland, three in the south and two in the west.
The Government would aim to confirm some locations in the new year and has earmarked $130 million for land purchases. The additional classrooms would go to existing schools.
A Herald analysis of roll information for 565 schools in greater Auckland earlier this year showed the astonishing increases some schools have had to cope with.
Between 2003 and July last year, Westmere School grew by 52 per cent to 639 students and nearby Western Springs College almost doubled in size.
The western bays is a particular crunch point, with the Board of Trustees at Pt Chevalier Primary reporting children running into each other on crowded grounds.
Ms Kaye admitted last year the Government was playing catch-up on the issue, but yesterday said the new spending would get schools ahead of demand.
Significant pressure had come from special housing areas in Auckland and planned intensification would only increase that.
"It's very clear we need to run a bit faster, and this announcement enables us to get ahead of the growth curve."
Although the package is an election policy, Labour said it would take similar steps if it wins power.
Education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the announcement was "no great revelation" and his party would meet any need for new infrastructure from its own budget.
"Clearly, whoever the government was is going to have to meet that demand."
Yesterday Ms Kaye also announced that eight Auckland schools would need major redevelopment in coming years.
This would come from money already allocated for school infrastructure.
"First cabs off the rank" will be Western Springs College, Southern Cross Campus in Mangere East and Sherwood Primary in Browns Bay.
Stage one of the Southern Cross campus has already been approved, and yesterday's announcement confirmed the final stage, likely to cost around $20 million.
Board chairman Peter Parussini said the 1500-strong school was a merger between an intermediate school and college, and neither had been completed properly when built in the 1970s.
"Teachers and students have been waiting for a long time. They've had to put up with terrible conditions, the infrastructure of the school is failing, we are getting burst water pipes now and some of the buildings are leaking."
Lynette Herewini, whose daughter Michele, now 11, started at Southern Cross in Year 1, said the funding injection would make a big difference for many families.
"We will all benefit because we [Southern Cross] have families with six to eight children, ranging from Year 1 right through to Year 13," she said. "The Year 13 [student] might miss out, but that Year 1 child will see the improvements all the way through their learning."
To see our story on Auckland's class sizes go to tinyurl.com/nzhclassroomsizes