A $3.4 billion bill for Auckland schools over the next 10 years is tightening the squeeze on cash to meet other political promises in next week's Budget.
A Cabinet paper on an Auckland Education Growth Plan, prepared by the former Education Minister Nikki Kaye in May last year, said capital investment in Auckland schools would have to double from $160 million in 2016-17 to between $300m and $350m a year to meet roll growth over the decade to 2027.
The total cost over 10 years was put at $3.38 billion including buying land, building new schools and redeveloping existing schools to add extra capacity.
Current Education Minister Chris Hipkins said those figures were already out of date.
"Nikki Kaye's draft plan had a 10-year focus but it had no funding attached to it," he said.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said today that his first Budget next Thursday would provide a net $42b of capital spending over the next five years across the public sector, $10b more than the former National Government had forecast.
He said it would include "a significant boost to support our schools to deal with ageing buildings and ever-increasing enrolments".
Kaye's Cabinet paper was a preliminary plan, promising a detailed 10-year plan for Auckland's 23 school "catchments" to go to Cabinet last November.
But Hipkins said he did not take a plan to Cabinet in November because "the forecasts were out of date and there was no money set aside for it".
"I have asked to the Ministry of Education to give me updated figures on the number of student places and classrooms that are needed in Auckland over the next 10 years and expect to get this over the next few weeks," he said.
Kaye's Cabinet paper, which she released with Cabinet Office approval, said Auckland school rolls were expected to grow from 272,845 last July to 310,000 by 2027 and 375,000 by 2043.
It said spending approved up to and including last year's Budget would fund places for 283,000 students, leaving places for a further 27,000 still to fund by 2027.
"High-level estimates suggest this will require additional capital funding of up to $2b for new schools and classrooms and around $1b of additional Ministry of Education baseline funding over that period for redevelopments of existing schools," it said.
The paper listed four new primary schools that were due to open in 2019 at Kumeu, Scott Point (Hobsonville), south-east Flat Bush and Hingaia South (Drury).
The principal of the new Matua Ngaru School at Kumeu, Diana Wilkes, said construction was well under way and the school had been funded for 170 students from next January, with capacity to grow to 560.
The new Flat Bush school, now called Te Uho o Te Nikau School, is also on track to open next year.
However the Education Ministry said the Scott Point school had been deferred until 2021 and Hingaia South in Park Estate Rd would now open in 2021-22.
Catholic Education Office chief executive Paul Ferris said the Catholic Church had bought 25ha in Burtt Rd, Drury, for a new Catholic co-educational high school and applied for ministry funding three years ago, but was still waiting for approval.
"We know there are 1000 kids travelling from the Pukekohe area to Catholic schools in the city every day," he said.
The Budget is expected to include funding to redevelop some existing schools, including Northcote College in the Northcote electorate, where a byelection is due on June 9.
Acting principal Karen Russell said she understood that the business case for redevelopment of some existing teaching spaces had been approved, but did not yet know whether it would increase the college's capacity.
Schools that were planned to open in 2019
Matua Ngaru School, Kumeu – opening Jan 2019
Te Uho o te Nikau School, Flat Bush – opening Jan 2019
Scott Point School, Hobsonville – deferred to 2021
Hingaia South School, Drury – deferred to 2021-22