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Idle Minister, Idle Schools

Idle Minister, Idle Schools

Friday 11 Jul 2003 Deborah Coddington Press Releases -- Education

ACT New Zealand Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today that reports of five Wellington schools, worth $4 million, remaining empty and unused 19 months after their closure was only the tip of the iceberg.

"Wellington's situation is, by no means, isolated. Closed schools are sitting idle throughout the country - of 200 state schools closed between 1994 and 2003, 78 are still waiting to be disposed of," Ms Coddington said.

"The most recent figures I obtained from Education Minister Trevor Mallard show that at least 62 school properties have been waiting for disposal for more than 12 months. Two of these have been sitting idle since 1994. The longer these school properties lie idle, the less valuable they become, as they become a magnet for vandals.

"The failure to release properties for sale is of serious financial concern. Taxpayers lose out through unrealised assets, and private schools, community groups, early childhood centres and property developers are denied sound buildings - often in excellent locations - because the repairs needed after years of neglect is too expensive.

"The Minister's apathy is in direct contrast with his unbridled enthusiasm for shutting schools down. Since he was elected, there has been a huge increase in closures. There were only one or two closures each year until 1999. Yet, since Mr Mallard took office, around eight schools have closed a year - 33 in 2001 alone.

"Since 1994, over 10,000 children have been affected by their schools being shut down. Most of the school closures have been forced because the Minister considered the schools unviable - that shouldn't be his call.

"The reality is that, sometimes, schools close or merge. But that decision should be made by parents and Boards of Trustees, not the Government - which is better known for using zoning and targeted funding to maintain failing schools," Ms Coddington said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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