Monday, April 22, 2024

Inquiry to examine school property system in ‘crisis’

The Government has announced it will conduct a Ministerial Inquiry to address problems with New Zealand’s school property system.

Education Minister, Erica Stanford said the coalition Government had inherited a school property system “bordering on crisis”.

“There have been a number of cost escalations and some schools expecting exciting, bespoke building projects that are not able to be delivered on,” she said.

“Within weeks of forming a Government, the Ministry of Education had already paused 20 building projects and informed me that there could be up to 350 projects in various stages, from design through to pre-construction, where expectations far exceeded what could delivered.”

Minister Stanford said it was deeply concerning that many projects were not underpinned by a value-for-money approach from the beginning. 

Education Minister, Erica Stanford.

“Additionally, that some were mere weeks away from shovels in the ground, even though the funding available hadn’t been managed well enough to meet what schools understood had been approved,” she said.

“Rightly teachers, principals, students and the communities would have been excited about these projects – only to have them facing uncertainty mere weeks before they were due to start. 

“This is disruptive to teaching and learning and deeply unfair for schools to have these expectations raised, to be let down due to poor processes.

“One example of this is the Te Tātoru o Wairau Marlborough schools co-location project which had years of cost escalations with construction estimates of up to $405 million, despite originally only having $170 million allocated by Cabinet in 2018.

“There is a clear need to review the school property system to evaluate the sustainability and efficiency of current arrangements and ensure we can deliver the school property our children deserve, while protecting taxpayers from further inefficiencies and poor value for money.”

The aim is for the reviewers to report back in three months. A lead reviewer and review team will be appointed imminently, the Minister confirmed.

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