The Ministry of Education has confirmed plans for a new school on Auckland's Unitec campus 10 years earlier than previously scheduled, as the city struggles to cope with population growth.
Ministry deputy secretary Katrina Casey says the ministry has started talks with Unitec and the housing agency Kāinga Ora over a possible school site in a housing development on the campus after the number of homes planned there was lifted from 2500 to 3000-4000 under the ill-fated KiwiBuild scheme in 2018.
The move comes as a dispute over another KiwiBuild project for 95 apartments next to Waterview School, just over Great North Rd from Unitec, has turned into a public slanging match between school parents and the developer.
Protest signs with slogans such as "Land for school not more houses" were put up twice over the weekend and were torn down both times.
Waterview parent Kate Crompton said parents would keep putting up new signs.
"There was no consultation as to that land being turned into massive apartments," she said.
But Ockham director Mark Todd lashed out at the protesters, saying the apartments had building consent and two-thirds have been sold.
"Just because they are a little white middle-class community, they think they can shake things around," he said.
"This is a political issue and an iwi issue that was raised not under this Government but the previous one. I'm sick of hearing about it for two years."
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A Ministry of Education national growth plan issued last July identified a "possible new primary school in relation to the Unitec site, or further stages at Waterview", but said a decision would not be made until after 2030.
"Beyond 2030, if growth from the Unitec development cannot be accommodated at Waterview School in the neighbouring catchment, we expect that a new primary school will be needed within this catchment," the plan said.
But Casey said the decision to secure a site for the new school now "will allow us to redistribute growth in the catchment and manage capacity at Waterview School".
Todd said the 0.57ha development block at 1431-1449 Great North Rd, next to Waterview School, was acquired by the Government for a temporary road used while the Waterview motorway tunnel was built.
After the tunnel was finished, the Government followed a standard process for disposing of surplus Crown land.
Last March, then-Housing Minister Phil Twyford told Waterview School board chair Margi Watson that "the site was offered to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] as an early opportunity to purchase as part of the KiwiBuild programme to provide affordable housing in the Auckland area".
Todd said development rights were then offered to the Tāmaki Collective of Auckland iwi, which negotiated a first right of refusal to develop surplus Crown land in Auckland for housing in 2015, with an agreement that 20 per cent of the homes would be social housing and 20 per cent would be "affordable".
He said the iwi entity, the Marutūāhu Rōpū, chose Ockham as its development partner. Half (47) of the planned apartments have been underwritten by KiwiBuild and are for sale at $500,000 for one bedroom and $600,000 for two bedrooms.
But Watson gathered 617 signatures on a petition, which she took to Parliament last August, asking for the northern 0.35ha part of the block, which adjoins the school, to be added to the school grounds.
The school was rebuilt for 270 students in 2017. Watson said it now had 340 students, a new two-storey block for a further 300 students was now being built, and another block was planned to take the roll to 900 by 2025.
"If that is delivered, there is a very small area of open space left for children," she said.
"The [Ockham] land could be used for a sports field or running track or outdoor play area."
She said the school knew of about 150 homes nearing completion in its zone in the next six months, including 121 in a social housing block developed by Waipareira Trust for Kāinga Ora at 1550 Great North Rd - on the Unitec side of the road but separate from the Unitec development.
But Casey said the Ministry of Education did not believe Waterview School needed additional land.
"The school's master plan allows for future stages that will enable the school to accommodate a roll of 900 students," she said.
"When the master plan was drafted, in close consultation with the school, further development - including parking, hard courts, and a field - was planned for within the site, without the need to acquire additional land."