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The Ministry of Education (MoE) has been eyeing up sites for another high school for some time — earlier this year it attempted to earmark the 14.6-hectare property at 516 Ladies Mile, bought by the Queenstown Lakes District Council in 2019 for just under $14million, though that was rebuffed by councillors.
However, one of three landowners on the northern side of Ladies Mile says they want to work with the ministry to build a second high school there.
Ladies Mile developer Sanderson Group — responsible for Queenstown Country Club retirement village and the neighbouring Kawarau Park precinct — owns 489 Ladies Mile.
Sanderson Group chief executive Jared Baronian said that between his group and two other neighbouring landowners there was about 8ha of land on which, under the council’s proposed Ladies Mile master plan, due
to go back to the council for consideration on June 3, a future high school could sit.
"[We’re] wanting to work with the MoE to get the high school outcome achieved there," Mr Baronian said.
That school could open in eight years for 1100 pupils and ultimately have room for 1800.
Ministry infrastructure and digital leader Scott Evans said the ministry "has a requirement for a secondary and primary school in the Ladies Mile area", but he remained tight-lipped as to exactly where.
"We’re unable to comment on the exact site locations because discussions with landowners are ongoing and commercially sensitive.
"The ministry has been engaged in the master-planning process, and is in regular and productive communication with key stakeholders, including a number of landowners," Mr Evans said.
Outgoing WHS principal Steve Hall said he understood the ministry had already done some legwork regarding what Queenstown’s next high school might look like and a few options were on the table.
That was because once the existing high school’s "phase 2" expansion finished at the start of next year the school would have hit pupil capacity, he said.
The project started in June 2020 to increase WHS’s pupil capacity from 1200 to 1800.
It includes two extra teaching wings and a new double gym.
Mr Hall said the school’s roll was sitting at 1220.
He anticipated that would grow by another 100 next year, and estimated WHS would hit pupil capacity by the end of this decade.
"Beyond that, they need another school," he said.
The ministry would ultimately make the call on what that school looked like, but options included having it under the auspices of the WHS board, "so you essentially have one school, two campuses", or using one site as a WHS junior and middle school campus and the other for seniors.
"Clearly, it won’t be my call, but you can see some advantage in that."
But he accepted the clock was ticking.
It took four years from the time then-education minister Hekia Parata confirmed the new $50million high school in Frankton would be built until it opened, in February 2018.
"It will be 2023 when phase 2’s finished, and it won’t feel like that long till it’ll have to be being looked at if Queens town and the school continues to grow," Mr Hall said.