No 'pot of gold' for schools
A lack of public submissions on the future of secondary schooling may cost Blenheim the opportunity to develop a state-of-the-art school, education experts say.
The final consultation meeting on the future shape of Blenheim's two colleges was held last night, with those in attendance warned that this was the time to speak up.
"This opportunity may not come along again for another 50 years," said consultation facilitator Janet Kelly.
"I have received only 67 submissions from the community - the colleges have more than 2000 students and 200 staff members. That does not tell us much about what the community wants."
Ms Kelly said that if the status quo remained, funding levels would also stay the same. The $30 million set aside for a combined college would not be available if the colleges stayed at their present sites.
"Everybody thinks there is this pot of gold for Marlborough, but it is not true.
"If the community does not say it wants the change and thus needs the special funding, Marlborough will have to follow the normal process for funding further down the line, thus competing as normal for funds, which will take time."
While some members of the public complained that they had little information to go on, Ms Kelly reminded them that the discussion was still in its early stages.
"This is not a decision phase but one of hearing from the community, if there is enough people wanting change of some kind, only then will a further round of consultation and research be likely.
"The reason for these meetings is to explore the opportunities for delivering secondary education in Marlborough."
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman was one of many concerned about the lack of information. He said people could not make an informed decision with such little information.
"I have listened to both sides but as a leader of the community I share your frustration that we do not have enough information.
"The ministry does have a preferred plan ... If they are communicating with us and want input from us why if we choose to go status quo will the ministry then not make funding available unless we change the way we deliver education in our region?
"It is very disappointing and our community deserves more, more facts and more information.
"This will affect our community for generations," he said.
Father of two Stephen Doecke said he requested information at the last meeting to be able to make an informed submission.
He wanted details on the options of properties and how this would affect the space available to students.
"Personally I did not ship my family to the country so that my kids can be educated like battery hens," he said.
"If the two colleges get squashed onto this one site that is what will happen."
Parent Jeremy Marshall said he was frustrated at the lack of information that had the community and the boards pointlessly debating the same issues as at the previous meeting.
"The boards want us to be inspirational and provide our hopes for the schools.
"But the ministry will not provide the money for a new build school."
He added that the timing of the consultation process further hindered progress.
The deadline for written submissions on the future of Blenheim's secondary schools is February 3.
These can be sent to consultation facilitator Janet Kelly at email@example.com or posted to: Janet Kelly, 31 Courtney St, Motueka 7120.
The Marlborough Express