$700,000 funding knock-back is latest blow for Arrowtown.
A group of angry Arrowtown mums is demanding answers from the government over an early childhood education crisis.
As all seven of the Wakatipu’s childcare centres bulge at the seams, the Arrowtown parents last week learned a $700,000 funding application for a swift solution to their problem had been turned down.
The group, led by local architect and mum Juliet Pope, has consent to build a new centre – run by Arrowtown Community Preschool on a site already approved next to Arrowtown School – that will take up to 80 kids.
The project’s all ready to go, with builders signed up – there’s just no cash to pay for it.
The government’s refusal to stump up the $700,000 needed is a double blow to the area.
It comes at the same time as Arrowtown Preschool looks at “drastic measures” like closing off a two-year waiting list to deal with demand, says head teacher Jane Foster.
“It’s heartbreaking for parents and the community,” she says.
“It’s horrible to think you’re going to have to exclude people from childcare.”
Pope’s complained to Infrastructure Minister and local MP Bill English, and yesterday fired off an email to Education Minister Anne Tolley about the “disaster”.
The Ministry of Education told Pope earlier this week that if the group wants to re-apply for capital funding in the next discretionary grant scheme round – in April – then they need to provide new survey data that shows even more children under five aren’t in a preschool.
“This is a huge amount of work and requires many people in the [Wakatipu] community coming forward to assist and gather data from families,” Pope says.
“How bad does it have to get? This is an infrastructure problem and a government problem. Do we have to wait until all the early childhood education centres [in the Wakatipu] close their waiting lists?
“We need people to direct their frustration and anger at the Minister of Education and our local MP.”
Pope’s urging parents affected by the Wakatipu childcare crisis to rally the government, as well as looking to Queenstown Lakes District Council for possible funding support.
Mums: ‘We basically need something. It’s disheartening to fight against this’
Arrowtown’s early childcare crisis is taking its toll on parents as they juggle jobs and family life while making ends meet.
The issue’s not limited to Arrowtown alone – the Wakatipu-wide baby boom means all seven childcare centres are struggling to accommodate babies and toddlers.
Arrowtown mum Nathalie Lacaze and her husband have been working back-to-back so they can look after their three children – two of whom are under five.
“I was a night-time auditor for a long time – I had to go to work at 11 at night, finish at 7am, then take care of the kids, wait until my husband comes home, he takes over and I go to sleep. You don’t do that forever,” she says.
“We basically need something in Arrowtown. It’s disheartening to fight against this.”
Arrowtown mum-of-two Vicki Morrison used to work weekends and nights so she and her husband didn’t have to pay for a nanny.
Her youngest, Harrison, is three years old but isn’t likely to get into Arrowtown Preschool till he’s nearly four.
Fiona Lapsley, owner of an Arrowtown children’s retail store, finds it hard managing her business full-time plus looking after her youngest of three children – who’s four years old and at Arrowtown Preschool for 20 hours a week. “You don’t have any family time and you’re always trying to work around the other person.”
While Lapsley’s children are all but finished with preschool, she knows the issue’s getting worse.
“If they don’t do something with the infrastructure they are going to have major consequences further along.”