Kids centre on brink

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Parents battle miserly Education Ministry for money.

Queenstown Playcentre is falling into disrepair and parents are battling to keep it going.

The centre’s 28-year-old Stanley Street building – housing more than 60 kids under the age of three-and-a-half – has lead-based paint on the roof, paint flaking off the walls, a broken toilet and outdated amenities.

Concerned mums say government funding for the parent-led education centre falls short of covering costs and community grants are few and far between.

President of the 45-family cooperative Lara Fletcher says it’s been “a major cost-cutting exercise all year” for the 52-year-old centre.

This term, the centre began closing one morning a week because of insufficient funding and staffing.

According to Ministry of Education (MoE) spokesman Iain Butler, the centre gets $50,000 annually – partly intended for maintenance – and was given $10,000 in July to “strip and repaint its exterior to remove lead-based paint”.

Fletcher says they’re grateful for the grant but it falls $3000 short, and the annual funding isn’t enough.

“One-third of that funding goes to the Otago Playcentre Association, so we only get two-thirds.

“In real terms, that’s certainly less than 50 per cent of our actual expenditure. It puts the onus on parents to raise the rest of the budget.”

Playcentre costs include yearly rates of about $3900 and salaries for a part-time supervisor and part-time office manager.

MoE funding depends on parents gaining qualifications through the national playcentre training programme.

Queenstown Playcentre doesn’t have enough qualified parents – it needs three for each two-and-a-half-hour ses­s­­­­­ion – so only gets MoE funding for three days a week.

Parent Peta Carey says while people are keen to study, Queenstown’s only playcentre trainer isn’t qualified to teach all levels of the programme. They must fund trainers to travel from Dunedin.

The centre hopes to raise $5000 with a Christmas fundraiser from 10am-2pm on December 6.