Schools' leaky dramas

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
leak
LAIRD HARPER/FAIRFAX NZ
Hawera Primary School principal Neryda Sullivan says her leaky classroom can't get fixed soon enough.

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A legion of leaky Taranaki schools could cost the Government millions as it grapples to plug a billion-dollar hole.

The Daily News can reveal that Lepperton, Hawera Primary, Moturoa, Norfolk, Waitara East, Waitara High and Woodleigh schools have joined Spotswood College in an ever-growing list of schools with defective or leaky buildings.

However, the Ministry of Education is staying mum on another 11 that are subject to legal action.

Ministry of Education spokeswoman Kim Shannon said those names were withheld so it could carry out commercial negotiations without prejudice or disadvantage.

Nationwide, there are 351 schools that have been identified as having weathertightness issues.

The Government is looking to recoup about $1.5 billion from companies it had contracted to work on school buildings throughout the country.

Lepperton School's board of trustees chairman Ian McCaul said all its classrooms were affected.

"The original block that was built in 1933 is solid but all the add-ons have been the problem," he said.

McCaul said while he was confident they would have replacements capable of accommodating their needs in the future, exactly what it would look like was unclear.

He said the next step would be a feasibility study looking at their construction options.

"By November, we will know exactly what will happen and what it will look like.

"We will either have a new school or a rebuild."

McCaul said when the time comes, they were prepared to usher the school into a new era.

"We know that the population of New Plymouth is coming our way, so we think it's a great opportunity for the ministry to look at that and make sure the capacity is there."

In the south, Hawera Primary School principal Neryda Sullivan said four classrooms, a computer suite, library and administration block would all need to be repaired.

For Woodleigh School, the rotting timber was centred around its administration block and four classrooms.

Principal Clyde Pearce said temporary cladding was already in place but exactly what would happen to the building proper was also up in the air.

"We have a good working relationship with the ministry; it's just a mystery as to the next stage."

Last year, the ministry sued building companies Carter Holt Harvey, James Hardie and its subsidiary Studorp, and ASX-listed CSR claiming they had been involved in supplying faulty cladding systems installed in thousands of school buildings.

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The Government has since reached a confidential settlement with James Hardie and the claims against the subsidiaries were dropped, but was pushing ahead with its claim against Carter Holt Harvey.

On Monday, the Daily News revealed Spotswood College had temporarily closed its gym after finding rot in its beams.

Students were using outdoor courts, empty rooms and the school hall for gym activities.

End to days of wet walls, damp art

 

Every time it rains Hawera Primary School teachers break out the buckets and mops.

They try to hold back the tide threatening to claim school projects and artwork proudly displayed on the walls.

It is a never-ending cycle that has earned them membership in a nationwide club of frustration.

The school is one of 19 in Taranaki found to be suffering water-tightness issues after the Ministry of Education embarked on a nationwide investigation into leaky and defective buildings.

It ultimately found four classrooms, a computer suite, library and possibly the administration wing needed to be rebuilt.

Principal Neryda Sullivan said they were finally gaining traction with what had been a long and drawn out process. "I was getting pretty frustrated with water pouring down the walls destroying artwork. Just last week, after the heavy rain, there was a great big bow in the ceiling of one classroom and we got three big buckets of water out of it. It's leaking big time."

But thankfully a solution has been found and the school would get a new watertight structure by 2016.

She said work was set to begin in early December and students would be moved to other buildings to limit the disruption to their learning.

"Because we have been told we will be out of it for a year, we have to relocate all our technology and infrastructure as well. When we come back it will be exciting because it will be all nice and tidy."

And water-tight of course.

- Taranaki Daily News

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