Old school an ideal hub, if price is right

By Katee Shanks

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell is hoping an MP's promise will help his council "procure" an old school site.

The Kawerau District Council has expressed interest in acquiring the former Kawerau Intermediate school site on River Rd but says it will not happen if the town's ratepayers have to pick up the tab. "We are hoping the Ministry of Education will see the buildings are better to be in use than left to become an eyesore within the town," Mr Campbell said.

He said the council was looking to purchase the site and buildings so a community hub could be established but admitted it would have to be sold to council at the "right price" for the venture to be viable.

"When the Kawerau schools merger was proposed and throughout the processes, we were told by the then Education Minister Anne Tolley, Kawerau would not be left with derelict school sites if the merger went ahead," Mr Campbell said.

"The merger did go ahead and we saw how quickly a vacant premise can fall into a sorry state of disrepair with Central School. Within six weeks of the school closing its doors it had been knocked around pretty bad.

"We hope Mrs Tolley's promise means the Ministry of Education will look favourably on what we are proposing."

Mr Campbell said you could travel anywhere and see schools that had been left alone after the doors were closed. "It's not often a pretty sight and we don't want that to happen here."

The former Kawerau Intermediate School has had security staff looking after it since the doors closed last year.

Mr Campbell said he had been told the site was worth $2.5 million as a school with costs to clear the land quoted to be about $250,000.

"However, if we [council] have to spend $2 million to buy the property before even starting to invest in the buildings, then it's a no-brainer, it won't happen."

He said discussions about a community hub had been going on for some time and with a large percentage of the community asking what was happening with the site, it was time to let people know of the proposal.

"We've done our homework but now we just have to wait."

Mr Campbell said Kawerau MP Todd McClay was involved with the proposal.

"Todd is hopefully bringing the matter up with Paula Bennett, Tony Ryall and Hekia Parata and can help us push things in the right direction."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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