Playcentre caught in school squeeze


Frankton Playcentre’s days at its purpose-built site could be numbered.

Early termination of the five-year lease is being considered to accommodate its fast-growing neighbour, Remarkables Primary.

The playcentre could be moved on in less than two years.

Its parent council will meet to discuss options today.

Ministry of Education education infrastructure boss Jerome Sheppard says in a statement no decisions have been made but early termination of the lease is an option.

Playcentre vice-president Olivia Day says it was recently asked to give the ministry information on “how the building’s being used”.

She says there’s been no discussion about giving the building back but the inference is clear.

“Obviously, we understand what they want it for - our assumption is classrooms, being that it’s so close to the school.”

The 45-year-old playcentre was booted off its original site to make way for the construction of the primary school, just above the Frankton Arm foreshore. 

The original lease on its new building, opened in 2010, was for five years, with a five-year right of renewal.

The playcentre took that up last year.

But Remarkables Primary is bursting at the seams - in ministry-speak “nearing capacity”.

Its roll increased from 485 to 560 between 2013 and 2015.

Now the ministry - which Sheppard says has built new schools and expanded capacity on existing sites -could take over the playcentre site, which is on ministry land.

Sheppard: “We need to consider the possibility that the space currently occupied by the playcentre may be needed by the school before the playcentre’s lease expires in 2020.

“However, the minimum notice for terminating the lease is two years.”

Day says the playcentre’s an important part of the community and it’s keen to work with the ministry and parent body Otago Playcentre Association.

“We definitely need to keep it as a resource - for us, that’s not negotiable.”

The lease is covered in part by playcentre fees and in part by a government “quality fund”.

“We don’t make any money,” Day says.

Parent Nicole Lowrey, whose daughter goes to the playcentre, says there’s no beef with the ministry, the school or the association.

“The only way forward for the playcentre is to find a site that’s suitable in Frankton so it can continue.”

Lowrey says the centre’s run voluntarily by parents, with one paid educator, and lets parents learn with their children.

Just as importantly, it provides support for mums and families.

“We came to town four years ago from Christchurch [and] we didn’t have any family here.

“Really, it’s been my whole connection and introduction to the community.”

Otago association ops coordinator Antoinette McLean told Mountain Scene the ministry told her not to speak to the media “while it’s in the early stages of negotiations”.