Primary reaching its peak

Shotover Primary School principal Ben Witheford

A major new building project will make Queenstown’s Shotover Primary School one of the biggest in New Zealand – and principal Ben Witheford’s hoping that’s its final growth spurt.

A large section of land has been cleared in preparation for building work to begin on a mammoth new teaching block in May, which will take the school’s roll capacity from 650 to 900.

That makes it the biggest primary school in the South Island.

Witheford says a new primary school within the Shotover zone is needed to cater to the area’s continual, and rapid, growth.

He points to newly-announced housing developments in Shotover Country and Ladies Mile, which weren’t on the books when Shotover Primary was first planned.

“We’d like to stop at 900, the site won’t cope with any more humans,” he says.

“We would get quite nervous if no other education providers were planned, in addition to the other new school.”

The Ministry of Education announced in early 2017 that it was looking for land for a new primary school in the Wakatipu.

Little more has been revealed publicly since then, but many believe it will be located in the Jack’s Point/Hanley’s Farm area.

Witheford’s comments echo those of mayor Jim Boult, who told Mountain Scene in December two new schools may be needed. “If NZTA does finally get our traffic issues sorted, there’s further development proposed for Ladies Mile.

“You can’t send them all to Shotover.”

At the time, Ministry official Katrina Casey said “any decisions about new schools and developments will be announced in due course”.

The new Shotover Primary building will be completed in stages, and is dependent on future government funding which will be decided later in the year.

All going to plan, Witheford expects it to be open in mid-2020.

Shotover’s not the only school undertaking building work this year. Arrowtown Primary School’s got an $11 million redevelopment on the cards, while stage 2 of the new Wakatipu High School build’s also on the horizon.

And KingsView School is looking to buy a site and build a new school, so it can grow its roll from 52 to about 150. The Christian school rents its current Frankton building.

Principal Mike Stanley says: “It’s always been part of the vision of the school, to own our own premises. [The board] is looking at a couple of viable options.”