Thousands of children are being taught in prefabs and school halls as the Ministry of Education struggles to get new classrooms built by an overstretched building industry.
Figures buried in the May 30 Budget documents reveal the ministry has underspent its capital budget by a record $176 million in the year to June 30 because of "capacity constraints within the construction industry".
In Auckland, 45 per cent (361) of the 805 new classrooms added to state schools in the four years to last June were temporary teaching spaces (prefabs).
Two temporary classrooms installed several years ago at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Manurewa are still not connected to the drainage network.
"The pipes go under the building. You smell it every time they turn the taps on - it stinks," deputy principal Claudia Keene said.
Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Craig Holt said three-quarters of his school, Willow Park in Northcote, was built as temporary classrooms and the school was still waiting for planned permanent two-storey blocks.
"We are a daisy chain of prefabs, as many schools are," he said.
Holt said he had to put classes in the school hall from term two in each of the past three years because he did not have enough classrooms to cater for 5-year-olds starting school during the year.
The ministry data shows that Glenfield-Birkenhead-Northcote is one of four Auckland school catchments where no new permanent classrooms were built in the four years to June 2018. Growth was met solely by 21 extra prefabs.
At the other extreme, fast-growing Ormiston-Mission Heights gained 86 new permanent teaching spaces in several new schools and didn't get any more prefabs.
The Budget documents show that the Government budgeted for a big $80m jump in Education Ministry capital spending on property, plant and equipment in the year to June 30, up from $948m last year to $1028m.
But it actually spent only $852m.
Ministry infrastructure head Kim Shannon said "capacity constraints within the NZ construction market" have hit school building because of a wider building boom driven by immigration and post-earthquake reconstruction.
"This means that suppliers continue to have a greater choice of projects to tender for as demand continues to outstrip supply," she said.
Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly said the industry had lost capacity through the collapse of Mainzeal, Ebert and Corbel, and through Fletcher Building's withdrawal from commercial building.
Infrastructure NZ chief executive Stephen Selwood said state agencies were "typically more difficult to deal with because they are always looking for the lowest-cost, race-to-the-bottom kind of bids".
"So when you have an excess of demand and you are a supplier, you tend to go with organisations that are easier to do business with," he said.
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Manurewa and secondary school Te Wharekura o Manurewa have been waiting for new buildings since soon after the kura opened in 1995.
"The whole school is a leaky building," principal Daphne Mika said.
She said the leaks were finally "patched up" in late May. But the bare, unpainted boards that had been stuck over the leaks were only a temporary fix.
Former Education Minister Nikki Kaye announced a $24m plan in June 2017 to build a new campus for the two schools in Browns Rd.
The new campus was listed last December as due to open in 2020. But initial drawings have only been presented to the schools in the past month and Shannon said the December statement was an error and the new campus would open in 2021.
She said the ministry started the process of designating the land for educational purposes in August 2017, but the designation was not approved until this February.
However, Selwood and Kelly said the building backlog could be cleared in the next few years thanks to an "accord" between the Government and the construction sector in April aimed at developing long-term relationships based on fair prices for "bundles" of work in a 10-year "pipeline".
Kaye said the former National Government formed public/private partnerships (PPPs) that bundled multiple schools into a single deal such as one with the ShapEd consortium for three new schools and two relocated schools. Labour has vetoed new education PPPs.
But the May Budget included $1.2 billion over 10 years for new school buildings. Education Minister Chris Hipkins said details of the new plan would be released shortly.