A new school proposed on prime farmland near Pukekohe has run into objections from local farmers and politicians.
Franklin Local Board chair Andy Baker says the proposed KingsGate Christian School at 58 Blake Rd, about 1km southwest of the existing Pukekohe built-up area, would be "in the heart of the best soils in the area".
"What we are talking about is the best place to market-garden in the area - this is smack bang in the middle of it," he said.
But Warren Peat, head of the KingsWay Trust which wants to build the school, said the trust could not afford to build any closer to town because land prices even directly across Blake Rd are three times higher than on the proposed site.
Auckland Council's Rural Urban Boundary runs down Blake Rd. The eastern side, closer to town, is zoned "future urban" with single houses, but the trust's site on the western side is zoned for "countryside living" on sections of at least 2ha.
Schools are a "discretionary" activity in the countryside living zone so the trust's proposal was publicly notified last Friday. Submissions close on February 14.
The school is one of two new Christian schools proposed in the area. Education Minister Chris Hipkins has also approved the start of negotiations for a new Catholic secondary school for up to 1000 students in Burtt Rd, just west of the motorway at Drury.
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Baker said new schools were needed to cope with big new housing projects and his board supported the Drury proposal, which was "well within" the urban zone. But he said the proposed KingsGate site was "just the wrong place".
"To put a school, which is a sensitive activity, alongside rural productive land that is actually farmed with market gardening, is just asking for trouble," he said.
He predicted future disputes over agricultural spraying, dust, noise and smells that could be avoided closer to town.
"They could avoid it by finding somewhere else," he said.
But Peat said Christian families wanting to send their children to KingsGate could not afford to pay more for the land.
"A similar sized block directly across the road from us is going for three times the price because it is zoned future urban - the point being that those who choose to land-bank have by and large bought land at a price and have consequently locked it up to get the capital gain at a future time," he said.
"This is a small Christian school community that is paying their dues at $2000 a year, and coming by the next million dollars, rather than the next $10 million, is problematic for us."
The school currently uses a former Brethren church in Victoria St, Pukekohe. It is rated decile 5 and its November 1 roll of 107 comprised 55 Europeans, 28 Pacific children, 13 Māori, and 11 Asians and others.
Peat said the school was state-integrated so that it could keep fees low, but it could not afford to buy a new site by itself so asked to be taken over in 2017 by the KingsWay Trust, which runs other Christian schools at Ōrewa, Snells Beach and Avondale.
He said the new school would cost about $10m, split into three roughly equal parts for the land, buildings and infrastructure. KingsWay Trust planned to borrow the money and recover it from student fees over future decades.
If consent is granted, he hopes to open stage one of the project in mid-2021 for 300 students, with provision to add buildings for a further 150 primary school students plus 60 preschoolers when demand warrants it.