Christ's College students to 'face repercussions' over car park campaign

Students at Christ's College want the school to let them park in a nearby empty lot. Left to right: Phillipo Georgiou, ...
Stacy Squires

Students at Christ's College want the school to let them park in a nearby empty lot. Left to right: Phillipo Georgiou, Miro Sykes, Zac Jones, Ben Wade, Ashton Finlayson and Kerry Coffey.

Students from a prestigious private school who took their car parking woes to the media will "face repercussions", the college headmaster says.

 A group of Christ's College students said the lack of parking around the central Christchurch school meant they faced constant parking fines and lateness to school.

Zac Jones and Phillipo Georgiou, both 17, are among a group of students trying to convince the school to allow them to park in a school-owned empty lot near the college entrance.

On Wednesday afternoon, Christ's College headmaster Simon Leese said he had talked to some of the boys, who were "feeling as if they had made a major error of judgement."

"They've come out of it very badly. One of the group has been up to apologise already," Leese said.

"They've learnt a lesson about thinking before they act."

He said "the vast majority of the boys at the school are fuming," as they felt it was reinforcing stereotypes of private school students.

The group were usually "good young men".

"There will be some repercussions for them but the school is not going to feel vulnerable to a small number of hotheads like this," Leese said. 

An email sent to school members from Leese apologised on the boys' behalf for bringing the school into "collective disrepute".

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On Tuesday, Jones, Georgiou and three other students parked in the empty lot to try and "instigate" a parking solution. During the day, the school clamped one of the cars, they claim. 

The students want to park in this empty section owned by Christ's College. Photo: Stacy Squires.

Jones estimated about 40 or 50 boys drove to school each day. They could only park on the street in paid parking meters, or in the Botanic Gardens carpark, which had a three hour parking limit. Both Jones and Georgiou recently had their tyres slashed parking in the Botanic Gardens lot, they said. 

"Parking has been an ongoing issue for the year," Jones said.

"It's affecting our education because we are always turning up late."

Leese dismissed the student claims as "nonsense".

"There is no on-ground school parking and that has always been the case," he said. 

"It is more difficult for them to park in Christchurch because of the congestion we've got ... You just need to get to school a bit earlier."

Leese was unaware of the alleged clamping.

"If that was done, it will be entirely because the vehicle was in the wrong place," he said. 

"We have to manage our vehicles around here like everybody else."

Leese said no parents had complained about lack of parking at the school. Students were encouraged to cycle to school, but could use a Wilsons-managed carpark on Cranmer Sq, he said. 

Boys who travelled long distances with heavy gear could find parking spaces on the street, he said. 

"The boys that show a bit of initiative have not found this a problem in the past."

The lot across the road from the school became vacant after removal of temporary buildings in April. Some prefabricated buildings remained on part of the site. 

It is understood temporary kitchens would be installed on the site before renovations to the school's dining hall began at the end of the year.

Leese said the boys' cars would be no safer parked in the unsupervised empty lot than elsewhere in the central city. 

"The problem that all schools will have is, if you did start using any available spaces you've got, very quickly the demand would outstrip any space that you've got," Leese said. 

Georgiou recently received two parking tickets in one day parking outside the school, one at 9am, and the other just after 2pm. Another of their friends bought a motorbike to avoid parking woes, but ended up getting "about eight parking tickets in two months" instead.

Jones believed the boys were being "preyed on by parking wardens".

"People on study periods sit and watch and text people to tell them the parking wardens are there," he said.

Jones said he had fought as far as he could internally. The Student Welfare Committee had taken the issue to the deputy headmaster, who "shut us down", Jones said.

He had been told to bus, but said it took up to an hour to get from his Sumner home and walk from the bus stop.

"I've bussed for four years, I feel like I've earned the freedom to drive to school.

"I was told that I'm 17, and I have no rights."

Taking the matter public was his last resort, Jones said. 

He said other schools allowed their students to park on school grounds, and Christ's College should do the same.

Christchurch Boys' High principal Nic Hill said his students generally parked in council parking on streets in nearby Fendalton and Riccarton, and he was not aware of any issues.

"Our kids can't park within the grounds, there just isn't the room. It's a struggle for me to find a park in the school."

Marian College principal Anna Heffernan said because of its central location students had to make arrangements to either park on the street "which is almost impossible", or get paid parking somewhere.

"It's always difficult, especially with students who have vehicles because of sports commitments."

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 - Stuff

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