Millions to repair leaky school

Millions of dollars will be spent fixing Arrowtown School's ''leaky'' classrooms, principal Robin Harris says.

In a newsletter to parents and caregivers yesterday, the school said it had been briefed recently by the Ministry of Education about weathertightness issues with all its buildings, except for an area for years 7-8 children.

Mr Harris said seven of the nine blocks at the school - which has 510 pupils in 21 classrooms - were affected to varying degrees.

It might be more cost-efficient to demolish some buildings than repair them, he said.

The ministry had employed a master planner to develop a strategic plan, which might prompt an entire rethink of the school's layout.

"That [repair or rebuild cost] will be in the millions,'' Mr Harris said.

"It's sad and bad news, but the problem will be managed in a way to reduce disruptions as much as possible.''

At the end of the day, learning goes on.''

Arrowtown's weathertightness issue is the ministry's second bombshell in the Wakatipu area in as many weeks, after last week's surprise announcement it was reviewing school bus services in the semi-rural area with the intention of making cuts.

The issue heated up this week when it was revealed the ministry had been in discussions with private bus service operator Connectabus for two months - but schools were only told of the review on August 5.

Arrowtown School, in Centennial Ave, was built in the 1990s, when plaster walls and small or no eaves were common.

It was opened in October 1997.

Yesterday's school newsletter said the ministry assured the board there were no health and safety issues associated with the weathertightness problems, but the buildings needed to be fixed before such issues arose.

According to the newsletter - parents and caregivers' first formal notification of the issue - the buildings were inspected by ministry surveyors earlier this year.

However, the ministry said issues were first identified two years ago.

''We surveyed six of Arrowtown School's blocks in 2012 and found weathertightness issues in all of them,'' education infrastructure service head Kim Shannon said in an emailed statement.

''Six of the existing buildings will need to be either reclad or rebuilt.''

In June, the Government announced work was about to start on a $2.4 million classroom block at Arrowtown School that would house six classrooms in a double-storey extension.

Weathertightness problems with classrooms has been a huge issue for the ministry.

Its 2012 ''national schools weathertightness survey'' predicted a total repair cost of $1.4 billion affecting an estimated 3097 buildings constructed after 1994.

In a 2009 report prepared for the Ministry of Building and Housing, consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated New Zealand's leaky buildings debacle would cost $11.3 billion in financial liability.

david.williams@odt.co.nz