Ministry's lowball offer 'insulting'

Last updated 05:00 29/06/2013

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More than seven months after Whangamata Area School's technology block was destroyed by fire, principal Ross Preece is still fighting for a fair deal to rebuild it.

He says a Ministry of Education offer to build a new workshop for less than half the value and a third the size of the original is insulting.

The woodwork, metalwork and automotive workshops were wrecked by fire in November.

The ministry recommended not to rebuild the original 750 square-metre workshop and offered to replace it with a 205sqm building.

It was estimated it would cost $1.8 million to rebuild the original, but the ministry has given the school a $670,725 budget to replace it.

"What is frustrating is our insurance company has been great, our council has been very supportive, the only fly in the ointment has been the ministry," Preece said.

"Their number one priority would seem to be to get out of this as cheaply as possible. Our priority is to try and ensure we have a quality facility for our students."

Preece said staff were trying to come up with a plan to build an adequate workshop for less than half the value of the one that burnt down.

The school paid about $3000 into the ministry's insurance scheme each year and this was the first time he had made a claim.

"I can understand that with Christchurch and leaky buildings [the ministry's] acting no differently to any other insurance company - they're trying to get out of it as cheaply as possible rather than looking at what is good for the students of Whangamata."

A ministry spokesperson said a school's property entitlement varied with its student roll.

"The level of funding available to state schools is to ensure they have enough buildings of sufficient quality to the deliver the curriculum.

"While the school will not be in a position to rebuild the previous workshop as it was, the ministry will ensure that it does have technology facilities that are well designed and fit for purpose for the number of students the school has."

The school's contents insurance provider has agreed to cover the full $350,000 for damaged equipment, but Preece said it wouldn't fit inside a smaller building.

For the past six months students have been using an old classroom that was due for demolition as a temporary woodwork space and a double garage as a metalwork workshop.

The temporary building renovations were paid for by the ministry.

The 17-year-old student who was charged with setting fire to the workshop declined an offer to return to the school.

The charges against him were dropped as police decided he had not intended to start the fire.

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- Waikato Times

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