Ex-school a 'disaster area'

High Street School neighbour Margie Harris clears leaves and weeds from an entrance to the former primary school. Photo by Linda Robertson.
High Street School neighbour Margie Harris clears leaves and weeds from an entrance to the former primary school. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A former inner-city Dunedin school has become an ''absolute disaster area'' with used syringes lying on the premises and people dossing down in school buildings, neighbouring residents say.

High Street School was closed in February 2011 after its roll declined significantly, and has since gone to ''wrack and ruin'', the overgrown gardens and property becoming littered with rubbish, broken glass and used syringes and graffiti having been painted on walls.

The grounds are supposed to be maintained by Ministry of Education contractors Darroch - a New Zealand-owned commercial and industrial property services company.

However, school neighbour Margie Harris said they did not appear to be doing their job properly.

''There's virtually no maintenance going on over there.

''All Darroch do is mow the grass now and then, and leave the clippings on the ground to rot. They're not doing what they are supposed to.

''The whole thing is an absolute disaster.

''They [the Government] spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money, just to let it go to wrack and ruin.''

Mrs Harris said she had become so upset with the mess she had decided to do some of the maintenance herself.

''I go around there once a week with a plastic bag and sweep up the glass and rubbish. I also sweep all the leaves out of doorways and off paths.''

The spoutings were filled with leaves, the gardens and the remaining playground equipment were overgrown with weeds up to 1.5m high; she had come across syringes; and she believed people were sleeping in one of the school's buildings, Mrs Harris said.

''There's virtually no rubbish over there now because I've picked it all up. It's terrible that it's just been left like that - it's madness.''

Another neighbour, Ryan Shaw was also concerned about the site's rapid state of decay through lack of maintenance.

''It's a bit of an eyesore. It doesn't look very good.''

Another neighbour, who declined to be named, said it was disheartening to see what was once a good school fall into disrepair.

''It was a lovely school. There was a time when it was a very lively and buoyant school. Now it's derelict.

''It's gradually running downhill - it's rather sad.''

Waldronville, Rotary Park and Corstorphine schools have also closed in the past four years, and, like High Street School, are going through the ministry's disposal process. But observations by the Otago Daily Times have found the other three closed schools to be well maintained in comparison.

A spokesman for Darroch said the company was not permitted to comment on its maintenance contracts with the Ministry of Education, and referred the newspaper to the ministry's media team.

A spokeswoman said the ministry had a contract with Darroch to manage maintenance on closed school sites, including the mowing of lawns.

''Where there are concerns about some aspect of the maintenance of closed school sites, the ministry would welcome specific feedback about which sites and what the concern is.''

Complaints could be made to property.help@minedu.govt.nz, she said.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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