Residents withdraw from school battle

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Speargrass Flat residents who have withdrawn from a lengthy battle over a Catholic school claim other locals think the school’s a bad idea.

Prominent neighbours of a proposed second campus for St Joseph’s Primary have pulled out from their Court of Appeal fight – meaning the building of a school for 112 pupils can now go ahead.

In an expensive legal debate spanning six years, residents’ spokesman James Hadley says the neighbours still oppose the development but decided to withdraw their application to the Appellate Court.

“Rather than continue this debate, residents have decided to let common sense and the true needs of the local community ultimately determine whether or not a school will be successfully operated at the site.”

Wakatipu locals – including some parents with kids at St Joseph’s – have offered votes of support to the opponents throughout the process, Hadley says.

“Like many local people, they could not see or understand the logic in transporting children to and from a school in a remote location in the Wakatipu Basin and isolated from the normal after-school infrastructure available to parents and students in Arrowtown, Frankton and Queenstown. It was often described as ‘just a bad idea’ that had unfortunately gained momentum,” he says.

“It may be that the community indicate to the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin that instead of investing millions of dollars of capital at this proposed location to attract new students, those funds might be better-used improving the education of students at the existing school where growth capacity already exists.”

The Diocese bought the 2.6ha Speargrass Flat land to help ease the pressure of a growing school roll at St Joseph’s central Queenstown campus. Infrastructure cannot be extended on the small site.

However Hadley says: “In responding to submissions by the Diocese on potential Court of Appeal matters it became very clear to Residents that the existing St Josephs’ School in fact has a declining school roll and is at less than 80 per cent of its capacity.

“We concluded that the driver for a school at the Speargrass Flat site was not really about providing for growth, it was actually about creating growth by offering a new school in an attractive location.”

Opposing neighbours include Queenstown Lakes District Council planning commissioner Jane Taylor and husband Mark Taylor – the former Queenstown Airport Corporation board chair and engineering firm director Hadley. Former neighbours QLDC senior policy analyst Scott Figenshow, and his partner and Lakes District Hospital boss Norman Gray also oppose.