Defunct school now an eyesore

By Anne-Marie Emerson

Waverley police and local community patrols are still frustrated by the lack of maintenance at the old Waverley High School and theft, despite some improvements at the site.

Thieves have taken a multitude of items from the building, including the kitchen sink.

In November last year, the Wanganui Chronicle reported Waverley constable Allan Spooner's concerns about the site as it was being systematically vandalised and was dangerous. The front gates had been smashed, the grounds were overgrown, broken glass was scattered everywhere, and every building was adorned with large graffiti tags.

The school, located on the edge of town on the corner of Fookes St and Gloag St, was closed in April 2007 and has been unoccupied since. The site is owned by the Crown and managed by the Ministry of Education.

A clean-up of the site began in mid-November after a meeting between police and Ministry of Education contractors.

Mr Spooner said that, in recent months, incidents of vandalism had dropped due to the increased maintenance, but there were still problems with theft.

"The hedges and fences have been trimmed back so we can see right into the property, and that has stopped a large amount of the damage.

"I'd say vandalism has been cut by about two-thirds of what it was."

But Mr Spooner said the school was "a regular, ongoing issue" for local police and community patrols.

"It's a difficult place to police because it's so big. And there's a lot of theft going on - people are taking all sorts of things."

He said the school still presented a risk to anyone who went onto the site.

"I still believe someone will be injured there. It's a dangerous place."

Mr Spooner was adamant the ministry must get rid of the school.

"What I'd like to see happen is that it's sold to new owners who are actually prepared to look after the place, or it's demolished and the site is cleared."

Laraine Sole from the Waverley community patrol said there had been no new examples of graffiti within the grounds and very little broken glass since maintenance was increased.

"The site's been opened up so we can see right into it when we do our patrols. It's made our work a lot easier, and we have actually caught people in there."

But Ms Sole said she believed the school would always be a problem, as long as it was unoccupied.

She said some "crazy stuff" had been stolen from the abandoned buildings recently, including a hot water cylinder, a kitchen sink, a whiteboard and metal, including copper.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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