Water costs finally settled

FINANCIAL BOOST: Waiheke High School principal Neil Watson celebrates as the Ministry of Education promises to cover the costs of water supply and wastewater treatment.
FINANCIAL BOOST: Waiheke High School principal Neil Watson celebrates as the Ministry of Education promises to cover the costs of water supply and wastewater treatment.

Waiheke High School will be able to spend more money on its facilities from next year now a long-standing drain on its finances has been plugged.

At a meeting on Monday, principal Neil Watson was told by the Ministry of Education's group manager of resources John Clark that the issue of costs associated with the supply of water and treating wastewater for the high school, Te Huruhi School, Recreation Centre and Kindergarten had been resolved.

Mr Watson says the "very productive" meeting was the culmination of a long period of work, during which he was supported by MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye.

The high school has had the responsibility for supplying water and treating wastewater since Waiheke Area School became Waiheke High School and Te Huruhi School in 1986.

An example of the financial impact was felt recently when funding for new science laboratories had to be cut in order to spend $82,000 on a sewage plant upgrade.

Mr Watson says it was untenable a school one fifth the size of schools in Auckland had to spend 20 times more a year on water and sewerage.

The school has been in discussions with the Ministry of Education with the hope a resolution would occur before the start of the 2013 school year.

"We are very pleased that the minister has taken direct interest in our long-standing issue," Mr Watson says. "The meeting was highly productive and will provide our school with the necessary money and resources to address the ongoing cost of water and wastewater.

"This will free up needed resources for the benefit of our students.

"I am grateful for the strong advocacy of our case by our MP Nikki Kaye who has been working over the last few years to support the high school," Mr Watson says.

Ms Kaye says she and Mr Watson had been liaising with former Minister of Education Anne Tolley and the Minister of Education's office since 2011, with Ms Tolley writing to Mr Watson in November 2011 regarding an independent review the ministry had commissioned on costs for building-related goods and services incurred by the school.

"The review found that there were no additional costs associated with running a school from an isolated location such as Waiheke Island, a point that local schools disputed and I personally questioned."

She says that late last year Ms Tolley asked officials to provide her with further advice on the existing eligibility criteria for targeted operational funding for isolation.

According to a letter from Minister of Education Hekia Parata, received by Mr Watson earlier this month, no record exists of this advice being received by the ministry but she promised to resolve the issue.

The result saw Ms Parata directing senior officials from the Ministry of Education to meet Mr Watson and clear up the problem.

Ms Kaye says: "It was hugely positive that last week, Minister Parata directed the Ministry of Education to meet with the school to resolve this issue.

"I am very grateful to Minister Parata for her leadership and for directing the ministry to resolve it. I understand that, for the affected schools, this has been a protracted and difficult issue," she says.

"I want to thank all of the schools for their patience in resolving this issue.

"In particular, I would like to thank Neil Watson."

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