School stoush

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The new Wakatipu High School

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has fired back at Queenstown’s MP, after he implied Wakatipu High School’s planned expansion may not go ahead.

Clutha-Southland National MP Hamish Walker has challenged Labour’s Hipkins to explain why there was no money in this year’s Budget for the Phase Two expansion of the high school.

Walker says the government has scrapped future Private Public Partnerships (PPP).

“We need to know he will treat a PPP built school in a fair way like other schools,” he says.

“I know there have been plans and discussions for a stage two to future proof the school under the last government.

“Chris Hipkins needs to confirm why he has not provided the funding in budget 2018 given the growth in the area. Wakatipu needs a stage two build and I will fight for this.”

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker

The new school opened in January. The expansion will boost roll capacity from 1200 to 1800 students, as well as doubling the size of the school’s gym.

In a statement to Mountain Scene, Hipkins says the Government is committed to ensuring Wakatipu High School has “enough classrooms that are modern and fit-for-purpose to support students to succeed”.

“Hamish Walker’s suggestion that this school will be treated differently because it’s a PPP is a red herring.

“Once the design phase for the expansion is completed and we know what the likely costs are, funding will be considered as part of the normal Budget process alongside other new school property funding needs.”

School principal Steve Hall appears surprised by it being used as a political football, saying the expansion is going ahead as planned. He says the school has a “different perspective” than Walker.

Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall

He’s expecting a funding announcement later this year, and says the ministry has been “really good” to deal with. “I have no concern at all,” Hall says.

The Ministry of Education confirmed an expansion of the school hasn’t been given the nod as yet. Education infrastructure service boss Kim Shannon says it’s currently undertaking “pre-liminary design work to refine the school’s growth requirements”.

“This will help identify the best approach for expansion, as well as the likely costs involved. This design work will then inform future funding requests.”

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz