Schools backed to ditch coal burners

The Ministry of Education is paying to replace all remaining school coal boilers across the country, a large number of which are in Otago and Southland.

The $10million move was announced by Climate Change Minister James Shaw last week.

Ministry of Education infrastructure and digital leader Scott Evans said of the 108 schools in the replacement programme, 45 were in Otago and Southland.

It was estimated 180 schools nationally had coal boilers.

Since the beginning of the programme in 2020, 35 boilers had been replaced, which included eight in Southland and six in Otago.

The ministry was now analysing data to confirm which schools had boilers and if they were in use, work which was expected to be completed by mid-June.

The programme was only replacing coal boilers and not other fossil-fueled boilers such as gas.

Where possible, components of removed boilers were recycled, but if a boiler contained asbestos it was safely disposed of.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Vicki Nicolson said from a schooling perspective the first priority was keeping the children warm.

Port Chalmers School, of which she is principal, was one of the schools chosen earlier and had been in the process of converting its coal boilers to a biomass system, she said.

As long as it provided the same level of heating, the change would be a positive one.

It would be "absolutely impossible" for most schools to fund their own boiler conversions.

It was great to see the ministry funding the conversions, as it was the only way it could have happened, she said.


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