Sales of surplus will pump up coffers

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 07:48 24/06/2014

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More than 20 schools in the wider Manawatu are set to receive a tidy pay packet when leftover land and surplus school buildings go under the hammer.

Changes, which come into play next month, will see all the profits from selling spare school houses, old buildings and unused properties being put back into schools' coffers.

Previously only 50 per cent of net proceeds were returned to them and the Ministry of Education kept the other half.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said schools would receive a "significant funding increase" thanks to the initiative.

There are about 1900 houses on ministry-administered land at more than 200 schools and education institutes, including polytechnics, throughout New Zealand - the total value was worth more than $300 million.

In the ministry's Manawatu-Whanganui catchment, which spans from northern Rangitikei to southern Horowhenua, there were 22 schools which had houses, unused buildings or land going through the disposal process.

Primary and secondary schools in Pahiatua, Marton, Levin and Dannevirke were involved in the process, as well as tertiary institute UCOL, which has campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton.

UCOL had four "tertiary properties" in the disposal process, including three on Springvale Rd and one on Campbell St in Whanganui.

Dannevirke High School had one house opposite the school grounds on Allan St, which has been out of use for more than 18 months and has been fire-damaged.

Principal Dr Dawid de Villiers said it was used for staff when there wasn't an alternative rental property available near the school.

The ministry used to collect the money from tenants and paid the school to keep the grounds and gardens tidy.

"It has been standing empty for a long, long time now [and] we don't want the place to just go to ruins while we're waiting for it to be sold," de Villiers said.

The house wasn't on the market yet because there were a number of steps to be worked through with the ministry's property managers, including if it was under an iwi hold and making sure there were no requirements from wider government agencies for it.

However, putting 100 per cent of proceeds from the impending sale back into the school was welcomed, de Villiers said.

"It's absolutely good news. It will allows us to have more money available to upgrade classrooms and ensure a modern learning environment."

The extra money will be added to the lump sum given to schools every five years to maintain top-quality learning environments.

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Dannevirke was near the end of its Five Year Agreement budget, with the following phase due to start mid next year.

Under the last agreements the majority of the school's classrooms have been refurbished, with work done on a student sport centre, two laboratories, drama and English rooms, agriculture facilities and social science and geography rooms.

Kaye said the change was aimed at reducing the number of long-term vacancies.

The initiative is part of the Government's eight-point plan to ensure schools have "high-quality infrastructure". Twenty to 30 houses have been put into the disposal process each year.

- Manawatu Standard

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