Christchurch school takes ministry to court

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 15/07/2013
phillipstownstandard
TAKING A STAND: Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson leads a protest against closure.

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A Christchurch school fighting closure will get its day in court.

Education Minister Hekia Parata's decision to close Phillipstown School will come under scrutiny when the school's judicial review is heard in the High Court in Christchurch in September.

The primary school's board of trustees was last week told the hearing would be after September 9 and no later than September 30.

Parata announced in May that the school would merge with Woolston School from January.

The 163-pupil primary school had one damaged building, estimated to cost $3.5 million to fix over 10 years, and its surrounding land classified as technical category 2 and 3.

The minister's rationale for the merger was that the site had liquefaction, and both Phillipstown and Woolston schools had reasonably small rolls in an area with an over-supply of primary school places.

Phillipstown board of trustees chairman Wayne West said court action was a last resort, but "the minister has acted illegally, and has made factual errors when making her decision to close our school.

"We are looking forward to having our day in court. We know that the decision by the minister is flawed and are ready to challenge it."

Wayne Hawker, in charge of the school's fundraising efforts, said nearly $9000 had been raised after only nine days.

"What minister Parata doesn't understand is that Phillipstown School and Phillipstown community are one and the same. You cannot have one without the other."

One 8-year-old boy had approached principal Tony Simpson to offer his $10 pocket money to save his school, while a couple of past pupils now in their 80s had dropped a $1000 cheque into the office. "Phillipstown means so much to so many people. We're in this for the long haul."

Exact court costs were the "big unknown", but they would continue fundraising and had secured discounted rates from their law firm.

"The Ministry of Education hired the best Queen's counsel using several thousands of taxpayers' dollars to try and drive us down. But we don't like getting pushed around."

Parata's spokeswoman said the minister would not comment further while the case was before the courts.

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- The Press

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