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Air quality debacle threatens ECE centres

Paula Bennett MP
National Party Associate Education Spokeswoman
(Early Childhood)

18 December 2007

Air quality debacle threatens ECE centres

The astonishing saga that has seen Kidicorp’s Jump & Jive early childhood centre in Auckland remain closed since its official opening in March now threatens to see other schools and early childhood centres shut down, says National’s Associate Education (Early Childhood) spokeswoman, Paula Bennett.

“Helen Clark opened Jump & Jive in a flourish of publicity in March – a remarkable staged photo op complete with stunt kids brought in especially for the occasion – yet interference from three Ministries has prevented 150 real kids ever getting the chance to use it.

“The Auckland Medical Officer of Health blocked the opening of the centre, citing concerns over air pollution from nearby roads. However, astoundingly, officials at the Education and Health Ministries admit they have no data to back up their fears, and no intention of commissioning any.

“Kidicorp, frustrated by the continual delays in getting a licence, despite repeated meetings with officials from the Ministries of Education, Health and the Environment, went ahead with their own air quality testing in August.

“This monitoring, done in the thick of winter which is the worst time for air pollution, proved there was no evidence the nitrous oxide levels were at a level detrimental to children.

“But this scientific monitoring was not enough for the Ministry of Health – they now want to peer review the report. Meanwhile, Kidicorp continues to pay $25,000 a month in rent for an empty facility.

“This is beyond a joke, and should be a serious wake up call for other schools and early childhood centres within 500 metres of motorways and main roads. The three ministries concerned have already said that closing schools could be an option.

“Education Minister Chris Carter needs to clarify his Ministry’s position immediately. It is a simple question - are schools and early childhood centres at risk of closure on the whim of his and other Ministries, with no supporting scientific data? Will Auckland Grammar be next?”


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