A Whangamata school principal's whose technology building was
gutted by fire is accusing the Education Ministry of putting
cost-cutting ahead of pupils' needs.
Whangamata Area School principal Ross Preece says the
Government's rebuild proposal was "a huge slap in the face".
The ministry's proposal was based on excessive cost-cutting
but was not in the students' best interests, he said.
"I've heard from the ministry that they're not going to
replace the 750sq/m site that was the technology block.
They've suggested they'll cover 250sq/m. It's only a third of
the size," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
"The foundations are still in shape and we have the existing
plans [of the former technology building] so if we were to
rebuild we could have had the kids in there by term two, but
if they go ahead with this plan it's going to be at least 18
months before it's ready because we have to go through
resource consent, and tendering, and that's really
The fire, estimated to have cost $1 million worth of damage,
broke out about 11am on November 14. It took hold of the
school's technology block, which housed equipment and tools
for woodworking, metalcraft and automotive classes.
Mr Preece was alerted by the ministry's proposal via email on
Wednesday - the last day of school this year. The email
indicated the Government's cover would involve renovating "an
old, derelict classroom" into a new woodworking room and "an
old, unlined double garage" into a new metalwork room.
"I wasn't going to ruin the prizegiving and tell them the
news. Staff and the community will be absolutely livid when
they find out," he said.
Mr Preece said the school asked if it could fundraise and
rebuild on the site of the original block but the answer was
no. He said the reason he was given was that it did not sit
within ministry guidelines.
"I think it's ridiculous. We've got enough tradies in town to
help us rebuild but it doesn't look like it's going to happen
and the ministry is entirely to blame.
"We're going to fight this as best as we can ... because what
they're proposing has got nothing to do with what's best for
the kids. The decision doesn't take into account actual
feelings and community support, it's designed to save money
and it's as simple as that."
The Ministry of Education would not answer questions from the
Bay of Plenty Times and issued the following
statement: "The ministry's goal is to ensure that adequate
technology related facilities are provided at the school to
replace the loss from the fire.
"However, as the school has significant surplus capacity the
ministry needs to ensure that taxpayers' funds are spent
appropriately. The ministry will be working closely with the
board of trustees to ensure the teaching and learning needs
of the school are suitably addressed through the provision of
new technology related facilities."
Mr Preece said people could show their support by emailing
Education Minister Hekia Parata or associate minister Craig
- By Genevieve Helliwell of the Bay of Plenty Times