Kaikōura candidates have their say on the co-location of Blenheim's colleges

Kaikōura candidates have their say ahead of the election on September 23.
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Kaikōura candidates have their say ahead of the election on September 23.

The co-location of Blenheim's colleges has been on the agenda in Marlborough for the past couple years. We asked candidates their thoughts on the process to date, and if they thought the public-private partnership (PPP) model was the right one.

 

Jamie Arbuckle, NZ First

"The process has been all promises and no delivery. This process started in earnest in 2014 with public meetings and three years on the site is still to be confirmed; from Alabama Rd to Waterlea to Battys Rd – there's been no project manager to identify and publicly consult on the site. Actions speak louder than words; you would have to question the government's priority rating for delivering the new Blenheim colleges. Winston Peters said at his Blenheim public meeting last week, the first thing that NZ First will do is ringfence the money. Currently we keep hearing about a 'budget' of $63m, a budget is no guarantee that the money is actually fully committed. We are three years down the track and still no site. I can't see how we will have a 2021 opening at this rate. MOE have said they'd fund it 100 per cent so there's been no indication that a PPP model is even on the table." 

Richard McCubbin, Greens

"Clearly this is a major decision for the long term and has to be taken carefully and cautiously. My opinion is that the process is going through the right channels, but I can understand the desire of the community to see the project up and running . Both the Green Party and myself as a candidate are opposed absolutely to a Private Public Partnership model to fund this. The overseas records on PPPs are that (to quote a recent paper by the PSI) "these are used to conceal public borrowing (as the expense can be treated as private not public borrowing on Government books ) while providing longterm state guarantees for profit for private companies". They are an expensive and inefficient way of financing infrastructure projects, and overseas many such schemes have collapsed leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab. Private sector companies are in the game to maximise their profit and our policy is that spending for public education must be funded publicly."

Richard Evans, ACT

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"We can only hope the education ministry will take into account the public's comments in their decision. The ACT party's perspective on education is that the current education system doesn't cater to the needs of the vast range of pupils and that too many children are being let down by the "cookie cutter" approach to college education and will be left behind as they progress to adulthood. As a growing regional town, Blenheim's education requirements range from high level academics to practical, hands-on technicians to rural labour providers and the standard approach to education cannot achieve good outcomes for all our young adults. ACT is the party driving Public Private Partnerships as a means to address the needs of those young adults that the current education system has let down. ACT's successful Charter Schools have ensured that 1500 kids that the public education system rejected are on a road to a life underpinned by education that will ensure those kids achieve their true potential." 

Stuart Smith, National

"I have been involved with the co-location process of the colleges from the very beginning and have advocated very strongly for this to happen. The process to date has been successful in that it has been inclusive and thorough, with wide community consultation ongoing. We are lucky in Marlborough to already have access to fantastic educational facilities, and this co-location is a fantastic opportunity for our region to build on that by providing a modern, innovative and state-of-the-art learning environment that prepares our young people for a bright future. Negotiations are currently underway for a proposed site. How the funding model is structured is less of a concern as long as the result is the best possible outcome for our students. Underpinning all of this is that we need to ensure a quality education for Marlborough's young people." 

David Greenslade, Conservative Party

"After two years of negotiations I feel the final decision should be closer that what it is today as we still don't know whether the land where the colleges are supposed to be built is closed to be purchased. The Public Private Partnership model has obviously been written to help the process and the people in authority should have a full quotation for the price of purchasing the land and building the new schools. They also should have a full quotation for the time spend in updating the present colleges and take into consideration the inconvenience to the students if upgrading the current girls' or boys' colleges was considered. This would bring work to the local industry and qualified workers which would benefit the people of Marlborough."

Janette Walker, Labour

"I'm not totally convinced the existing college sites couldn't be renovated to provide the education facilities Marlborough's youth need to thrive. Both sites that are up for consideration i.e. Alabama Rd and the racecourse do have potential liquefaction issues. I think it is great for the town to have our young people remain in the CBD area, as they add a much-needed youthful vitality to the community. However, this is an opportunity for us, as a community, to make sure the classrooms and learning spaces are world class. Labour has always backed world-class, free education for all. Education gives our young people the freedom and opportunities to be the best they can be and make New Zealand an even better place to live. I think the consultative process has been fraught with difficulties around communication and the decision to relocate has really come from the top down and many in the community, including teachers, haven't felt they have been listened to. I am not comfortable with the notion of private partnership models being involved in providing state education. We have had experiences of that in our universities and it is very important our state education system remains free of outside influences, so every child has equal opportunity to achieve the best

*Candidates John Foster, for United Future, and John McCaskey, who is representing the Democrats, did not reply by deadline. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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