The value of works approved on education buildings dropped 64 per cent in the Wairarapa last year, and one principal says he won't be able to afford classroom upgrades for 10 years.
Education buildings valued at $1.23 million were awarded consents in 2015, down from $3.46 million a year earlier.
Lakeview School principal Edward Hodgkinson said he has had to spend the vast majority of his building budget fixing potentially leaky roofs, leaving no money for classroom upgrades.
"You can't have a school with a leaky roof, so we've had to invest heavily in that. At the moment, these are the things that are most important."
Schools are allocated funding for buildings from the Ministry of Education on a five-yearly basis, known as five-year agreements. This funding must be used to upgrade, modernise or replace existing buildings.
The ministry expects schools to upgrade classrooms to become "flexible learning spaces" -- open plan learning areas of varying sizes to "encourage and support many different types of learning". Schools must pay for these upgrades using their five-year agreement.
Mr Hodgkinson said the school could afford to modernise learning spaces with its five-year agreement if it didn't have the roofing costs. But, because of this, creating modern learning environments has been put on the back burner.
"We're looking maybe 10 years out from now we might be able to start developing those but, for the next 10 years, we have to spend money on the roofs," he said.
"If the ministry wants to see us develop these modern learning environments and 21st century learning spaces, then I think there may need to be an increase in the budget for property," Mr Hodgkinson said.
In a written response, Ministry of Education spokesperson Jerome Sheppard said the ministry expects to spend twice as much on school property this year as it did three years ago.
He said the ministry asks schools to prioritise property funding to make sure buildings are healthy and safe.
"If a school had health and safety issues, we would help them use their funding to address those. If they didn't have sufficient funds, we would step in immediately. The safety of the students and staff is our first concern," he said.
Mr Sheppard said the Government has allocated $300 million over the next six years to assist schools with "complex property issues" which can't be fixed from their regular budget.
The value of consents for education buildings rose 58 per cent in 2015, up $404 million to $1.1 billion. Tertiary buildings accounted for more than half of the increase.