Govt to help pay universities' rebuild bill

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 10:24 29/11/2012

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The Government has offered support to the University of Canterbury as it struggles under a hefty earthquake repair bill.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said today the Cabinet had agreed, in principle, to provide financial support to the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) for selected programmes.

The three tertiary education institutions (TEIs) submitted business cases for Government investment as part of the earthquake rebuild.

''The Government's expectation is that TEIs across the country fund capital developments themselves, from their own balance sheets,'' Joyce said.

''However, the extraordinary circumstances in Canterbury warrant some additional support due to the severe challenges they face and the importance of the Canterbury TEIs to the region's recovery.

''The Government will help meet the cost of rebuilding some key facilities alongside their insurance proceeds plus contributions from the TEIs' own balance sheets."

Cabinet has agreed to provide capital support, in principle, towards:

- science and engineering facilities at the University of Canterbury

- science facilities at Lincoln University

- expansion of trades training facilities at CPIT

The University of Canterbury has been hit hard by the earthquakes, with its insurance premium rising from $1 million to $7m next year.

Staff costs continue to rise and the university faces an estimated $150m repair bill, above insurance payouts, to fix its quake-damaged buildings.

Vice-chancellor Rod Carr said in October the university had used $40m of its $100m cash reserves and was haemorrhaging $100,000 each business day.

"I would like to acknowledge the Government for the pace at which it has considered our business case, for recognising the significant contribution [the university] makes locally and nationally, and for its commitment to support the university post-earthquake," Carr said.

It was not known what support the university had sought. However, in the first business case, it wanted $130m in operating support, $25m for capital costs and a yet-to-be-determined sum for building remediation not covered by insurance.

Final Cabinet decisions regarding the amount of Crown investment will be made after each institution submits a more detailed project business case in 2013.

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