Get moving, Minister

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Wellington gets hurry-up as private schools sniff out sites

 

Queenstown schooling woes could be solved sooner than the Ministry of Education thinks – with two private schools eager to build in Frankton.

Remarkables Park boss Alastair Porter confirms he’s talking to two South Island private schools eyeing up land for new campuses.

The revelation follows the Ministry’s release last week of its long-awaited “Wakatipu area strategy plan” to Mountain Scene.

The plan was written in response to booming numbers of youngsters attending local schools.

Strategy findings prompted last month’s announcement by Education Minister Anne Tolley on plans to buy land and build a new primary in Frankton Flats by 2021 – and possibly relocate Wakatipu High to the same area.

But the new interest from the private schools means the MoE might need to quicken its pace on securing sites.

Obvious blocks of available land suitable for education purposes in Frankton Flats are at Porter’s RemarkablesPark and at the failed Five Mile development, formerly controlled by embattled Christchurch developer Dave Henderson.

“We’re saying the Ministry should be on notice that other people have talked to us and we are more than happy to talk to them [too],” Porter says.

“It’s probably a case of first-in, first-served.

“I have to say after various dealings with the Ministry over a long period of time … the private schools seem to be rather more enthusiastic.”

Porter won’t identify the two private schools but says they’re both “established” primary schools on the lookout for expansion into the Wakatipu – their existing schools would stay where they are.

“One of them would potentially go on to become a secondary school [in Queenstown] as well.”

He stresses plans aren’t imminent – he’s awaiting a decision on Queenstown Airport’s new noise boundaries before giving the schools the nod.

“I’m sure they’d be absolutely delighted if I rang them up and told them the deal was on,” Porter says.

The two schools expressed interest a while back, he says.

“I think they think there’s a demand for the type of children that they attract in Queenstown.”

But: “I’m sure that if these people set up schools, the requirement for the Ministry would diminish. I’m sure they’re all looking at the same pool of growth.”

Depending on requirements, Porter says he could have enough land to cater for private and public schools.

MoE didn’t respond to questions by page deadline.