Centre faces closure due to Ministry bungling
First Five Early Childhood Centre faces closure due to Ministry bungling
Date: 20 October 2016
The First Five early childhood centre in Kenepuru faces closure by Christmas if it can’t find alternative premises. On 22nd June 2016 First Five was told that it would have to leave its Kenepuru site, adjacent to Kenepuru Hospital, as the land housing the childcare centre had been subject to a settlement under the Treaty of Waitangi and the new owners planned to clear the land to make way for a new housing development.
At that time the Ministry of Education assured the childcare centre that it would support them to relocate to new premises. Conversely, the Ministry has only undermined the childcare centre’s efforts to survive.
The Ministry advised First Five of an unused former childcare centre located on Tawa College grounds that would be suitable. At a management committee meeting in August First Five was assured by the Ministry that after some research they had confirmed the building was Crown owned and on Crown land and therefore First Five was led to believe the option was likely, if not foregone. First Five therefore did not pursue alternatives.
On 22nd September First Five received a letter from MoE informing them the building did not, in fact, belong to the Ministry, and First Five would need to approach Tawa College with a business proposal to lease the building directly from the college. Tawa College board of trustees replied that they would be unable to lease it to First Five as they planned to use it for their own students.
At the ‘eleventh hour’ John Murdoch, Principal of Mana College, heard of the childcare centre’s plight and offered a building on school grounds, or a piece of land to which to relocate the centre's existing building if that was more suitable, which is ideal. John saw benefit in the children assisting with community outreach and gardening programmes run by the college. This win-win option was quickly dismissed by the Ministry (with no visit to the site, or discussion with the Principal) on the grounds the building was earmarked for eventual demolition (‘rationalisation’). The option of moving the First Five’s existing building, which was gifted to the centre by Ngati Toa, onto the land was also dismissed.
First Five parent Hayden Prosser says “Time is running out for First Five. The parents and the local community feel hurt and dismayed by the Ministry’s lack of action. The Ministry is throwing up brick wall after brick wall. Not only does this appear inconsistent with the Ministry’s strategy to focus on Early Childhood Care, it is also fundamentally callous and uncompassionate towards the working families in the area. Shame on the Ministry.
“First Five childcare centre has cared for and taught our community’s children for the past 29 years. Many adults in the community began their education at the centre. It has a teaching team of six fully trained and qualified, hardworking and passionate teachers who care for 24 adorable children on a daily basis, with a roll of 36, ranging from 4 months to 5 years. The children have established friendships and made memories. My daughter, Charlie, began at First Five in 2014 aged 5 months; her comprehendible life has been spent there.
“The Community is rallying around to help; for example, a relocation company has offered to relocate the centre building at a reduced rate, electricians, builders and roofers have all offered support and labour at no charge. We are passionate about this community childcare centre and will support and fight to the bitter end to see First Five continue to operate.
“At a meeting of First Five parents and staff, their expressions said a thousand words. It will be a sad and significant day if the highly respected and community supported institution, which has provided education to hundreds of Porirua’s families, closes its doors for the last time.
“What we need now is the Ministry of Education to stop putting roadblocks in our way, come to the party and help us find alternative premises.”
A decision must be made by First Five by the end of November.
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