Former schools sold for $14 million

The Ministry of Education has chalked up more than $14 million from the sale of 53 former schools across the country in the past decade - and at least another 35 are still awaiting disposal or sale.

Fewer than half of the schools closed from 2003 to 2012 have sold, meaning the Government could be sitting on nearly twice as much income.

Figures released by the Ministry of Education under the Official Information Act show 121 schools were closed from 2003 to 2012, of which 53 have been sold, generating $14,047,543.

Of the remaining closed schools, the majority were used for other educational purposes, or are still in the lengthy Crown disposal process awaiting sale on the open market.

The disposal process includes transferring the property to another Government agency or local authority, offering the property to former owners or their willed successors, offering the property to local iwi or having it assessed by the Office of Treaty Settlements, before it is placed on the open market.

In the Otago region, schools still waiting to be sold include Enfield School (Oamaru), Cattle Creek School (Kurow), Waldronville School (Dunedin), Corstorphine School (Dunedin), Otepopo School (North Otago), High Street School (Dunedin), and Paerau School (Ranfurly), which hold a total rateable value of almost $6.5 million.

Ministry of Education corporate and infrastructure group deputy secretary Kristine Kilkelly said some schools were not included in the figures.

Otago schools not included in the figures were Rotary Park School, because it closed in 2013; and Forbury School, College Street School or Calton Hill School because the ministry did not include schools that had merged under section 156a of the Education Act 1989, or schools that had been relocated, she said.

Taking the prize for most expensive former school site was Watlington Intermediate, in Timaru, which sold in 2010 for $1.7 million after it was closed in 2005 as part of the Ministry of Education's network review of Timaru schools.

The cheapest was Whakaki School in Wairoa, which was sold in 2009 for $12,500 after closing in 2004 at the request of its board of trustees.

A ministry spokeswoman said proceeds from the sale of schools were returned to the Government to help offset costs of the ministry's school property programme.

Complaints were aired recently in the Otago Daily Times about the lack of property maintenance at the former High Street School site in Dunedin.

One neighbour said the school had gone to ''rack and ruin'' following its closure, and it was common to see overgrown gardens and property littered with rubbish, broken glass, used syringes and graffiti.

A ministry spokeswoman said the disposal process could take years to complete, and until each school was sold, the ministry employed contractors to manage property maintenance.

She advised those who were unhappy with property maintenance, to direct their concerns to the Ministry of Education.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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