Huge power bill support sought

Deputy Prime Minister and Clutha Southland MP Bill English, Sir Eion Edgar, principal Debbie...
Deputy Prime Minister and Clutha Southland MP Bill English, Sir Eion Edgar, principal Debbie Dickson, Education Minister Anne Tolley, Ngai Tahu representative Michael Skerrett, of Waihopai runanga, and outgoing establishment board of trustees chairman Roy Thompson, at the grand opening of Remarkables Primary School, in Frankton, Queenstown yesterday. Photo by James Beech.
The first new state primary school to open in the lower South Island since the 1970s faced an estimated $75,000 electricity bill for the year because Government funding did not stretch to pay for a sustainable power system, Education Minister Ann Tolley was told in Queenstown yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of the $17.3 million Remarkables Primary School, outgoing establishment board of trustees chairman Roy Thompson said his one disappointment in the school's two-year development, from concept to completion, was the declining of a grant for an energy efficient system.

The school was instead now reliant on electricity. It was now paying more than $10,000 a month for power and estimated spending $75,000 for the full year.

The ministry did not fund electricity bills of that size and any shortfall would be covered by diverting funds from the school's operating budget, or by community fundraising, he said.

Mr Thompson urged the Government to take a longer-term view and fund a one-time expenditure on energy-efficient systems.

Ms Tolley told the Otago Daily Times after the ceremony she did not know anything about the funding for the sustainable system to which Mr Thompson referred.

The minister said she was "disappointed" the school would likely have to cut into its operating budget to pay for power.

The establishment board were given a budget and a blank piece of paper and it was their discretion how they spent it, she said.

When asked if the school should be given a funding break from the Government, Ms Tolley said there were 2500 schools in New Zealand and she encouraged all schools to carefully manage their power bills.

Mr Thompson said after the ceremony the establishment board applied for funding for the energy system as part of its original funding submission for the whole school.

The budget of $17.3 million was eventually approved by the ministry and the board had no choice but to axe the proposed $350,000 system in favour of essential facilities, Mr Thompson said.

"We're not alone. Every [school] grapples with these issues. We're particularly vulnerable here because we haven't had time to build up a kitty.

"Other schools have a community fundraising pipeline set up."

Deputy Prime Minister and Clutha Southland MP Bill English was also among the invited guests yesterday.



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