Kids pay to play

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QLDC quango stings Queenstown Primary again

Queenstown Primary’s prin­cipal warns “silly” new council recreation charges will hit education quality at his school.

John Western is crying foul over Queenstown Lakes District Council quango Lakes Leisure charging his school for using the adjacent Recreation Ground and Memorial Hall about five times a year each.

He’s already “very disappointed” that after years of QLDC mowing his school’s playing field for free, the commercially-driven council is now demanding $3000-$4000 a year for grass-cutting – despite extensive public use of the school’s ground.

“The next time the council asks to use our facilities we may have to charge for that as well,” Western warns.

Lakes Leisure wants Queenstown Primary to pay so-called “com­munity rates” for the Recreation Ground and Memorial Hall – $144 daily for the sportsfield and an unknown, subsidised price for the hall.

Previously, there was no charge for using the Recreation Ground and the school could hire the hall for next to nothing.

Western: “We would have hoped the council would have thought schools could have had some dispensation for that.

“Every dollar we spend on renting the Recreation Ground is one less dollar I can have for teacher aids to support children with their learning or additional resources in the school.

“We’re always trying to make the dollar go as far as we can to really benefit the kids.

“It just seems a bit silly that we’re being charged, and everyone who comes to our school either directly or indirectly pays [QLDC] rates themselves.”

It would be “a sad day” if the school tried to recoup QLDC’s new charges from parents: “For things like athletics day at the Rec Ground, imagine if we had to put the hat around.”

Paying to mow the school sportsground is particularly “frustrating”, he says.

“Council would say they want to be fair and equitable with other schools but no other [local] school has so many members of the public using their fields.”

Western accepts Queenstown Primary receives “generous” fees from paragliders landing on its grounds but points out as a decile 10 school, government funding is “substantially less” than for lower-decile schools.

“We spend about $200,000 [yearly] over and above what the government funds us to run our school and we do not have a school donation, which is very unique.”

However, Western says he’s happy about Lakes Leisure saying charges are negotiable.

Lakes Leisure chairman Jane Taylor: “There are certain grounds, the Rec Ground being one of them, [where] the council decided to improve the quality of the turf considerably, and as a result we are expected to levy the appropriate users with an appropriate fee.”

Concerning Queenstown Primary, she says: “You could probably put up an argument that everybody should be exempt.”

Lakes Leisure boss Fiona McKissock says sportsground fees represent less than 10 per cent of the maintenance cost “and it guarantees [users] exclusive use of that field and a great quality of turf”.

“But it is that challenge of funding – I completely understand that.”