Smith not sold on college proposal

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:38 13/01/2014
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New National candidate Stuart Smith has weighed in on the schools debate, saying the girls' college site in Springlands is too small to house both Blenheim's colleges.

Mr Smith, chosen by the National Party to replace Kaikoura MP Colin King at this year's election, said he was unsure whether he would make a submission on the future of the colleges but he had been in talks, or was due to talk with, both schools.

The Ministry of Education is consulting the Blenheim community on the future of secondary schooling in the region.

Both Marlborough Boys' College and Marlborough Girls' College need significant rebuilding because of the age of their buildings, and some are an earthquake risk or leaky.

The ministry has said it has no preference, but the option it has done the most work on involves moving Marlborough Boys' College from Stephenson St to the girls' college site in McLauchlan St and rebuilding a co-educational school there.

There would be up to 2500 students at a combined college, and there has been concern raised about the lack of space and the lack of playing fields, halls, and gymnasiums on the site that would be available to students.

Mr Smith said the size of the site proposed for a combined college was what the debate was going to come down to.

"I will take a lot of convincing that combining the schools on the girls' college site is the best option."

He encouraged people to get involved in the discussion about options for the future.

"I believe this is not just a parents' issue or a children's issue, it's an issue for the whole community.

"The future of our community is based on health and education. Jobs are important, but we can't get people to come for the jobs here if we don't have good health and education options in the region, so it's essential we get it right."

The tradition of the colleges was not something he was concerned about, he said.

"I'm not a Marlborough Boys' College old boy, it might be different if I was."

He said the major consideration should be doing the right thing for the children of the community. "It's got to be about education."

Combining the schools would mean upheaval for both, he said.

"That's not necessarily bad, but it's definitely an upheaval."

One of the leaders in campaigning to retain health services at Wairau Hospital last year, Mr Smith said as a member of the community he was interested in the future of secondary schools in Blenheim.

"As a candidate, I have to take a wider view than I would as a parent."

The Ministry of Education is to hold another public meeting on Monday, January 20.

Only 37 submissions had been received by ministry facilitator Janet Kelly by last week.

Submissions can be emailed to janet.kelly@xtra.co.nz or posted to: Janet Kelly, 31 Courtney Street, Motueka 7120.

The deadline for submissions is February 3. 

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- The Marlborough Express

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