Catholics axe school site


Plans for a controversial new $5 million Catholic school near Arrowtown have been axed in favour of a more central location.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, which covers the Wakatipu, fought and won a six-year legal battle for the right to build at Speargrass Flat.

It planned a second campus, catering to 112 pupils, for Queenstown’s jam-packed St Joseph’s primary.

But diocesan boss Gerald Scanlan says they’re going back to the drawing board because of huge growth in homes and shopping areas at Frankton and Lake Hayes.

One option under consideration is a 300-pupil school at Remarkables Park, along with a new church and presbytery.

“The Wakatipu basin is a high-growth part of the country but we’ve got a school on a constrained site and quite an old heritage church,” Scanlan says.

“We want to ensure we have an attractive contemporary schooling option available for people who want to send their kids to a Catholic school.

“But it has to be compatible with how people live their lives, where they live, work and shop.”

Speargrass Flat residents went to the High Court in a bid to stop the school, appealing an Environment Court ruling which upheld Queenstown council’s granting of resource consent.

They lost the appeal and then in June 2012 withdrew their appeal against that decision.

Now, they’ve got their wish. The 2.6-hectare Speargrass Flat site will go back on the open market, capable of being subdivided for low-density residential or visitor accommodation.

Scanlan says Bishop Colin Campbell has decided he doesn’t want to build a school at Speargrass Flat.

“Given the way the basin has developed, that site just doesn’t seem to be that relevant as a schooling option.

“It was a decision that took some time to make. The church has no valid use for that land now.”

Initial discussions have been held with a working group, with members of the parish, school and the diocese, with parents informed yesterday and a meeting due before Christmas.

“They’re looking for direction and some clarity and we’d like to give that to them sooner rather than later.”

Scanlan says the stunning new Holy Family church and school buildings in Wanaka, within a schooling corridor including Mount Aspiring College, is a model they’ll investigate.

The diocese now has to compete for pupils against new state primary schools at Frankton and Shotover Country.

Scanlan: “If you think in terms of market share, ours is around 12 per cent but at our current site that’s declined to about seven per cent.

“That’s telling us something we need to listen to.”

The diocese will put a case for funding towards the Ministry of Education. About five per cent of its pupils are non-Catholic.