School’s notable foes

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Catholic proposal draws heavyweight neighbour opposition.

A battle is brewing between Catholics and prominent Nimbys over a prized piece of land earmarked for a new school on Speargrass Flat Road.

The Catholic Diocese of Dun­­­edin wants to build a second campus for St Joseph’s School on a 2.6 hectare rural block near Arrowtown – which it paid millions for a few years ago.

But the school plans have been scorned by several Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) neighbours.

Opposing submitters to next month’s public resource consent hearing include Queens­­­town Lakes District Council-linked heavyweights.

The new school would accommodate up to 112 children in four classrooms over two stages of development.

It’s hoped to ease pressure at St Joseph’s longstanding Beetham Street school in Queenstown, which has a capped roll of 160.

Sixteen objectors, many living close to the Speargrass site, have formally lodged protests to the proposal, with QLDC regulatory quango Lakes Environmental’s file showing dissent bubbling away for the past two years.

Only six submitters are in favour of the school.

QLDC independent planning commissioner and former councillor David Clarke is against the school going up near his home.

He says it will have a “negative impact on peace and quiet, privacy, noise and low traffic volumes”.

“Although I do not object to the sound of children playing per se…noise generated from a school is not something you would anticipate in this zone.

“Additional noise expected would be in the form of school bells, traffic moving – especially buses, sports days with attending spectators,” Clarke says in his submission.

QLDC senior policy analyst Scott Figenshow and his partner, Lakes District Hospital boss Norman Gray, think the proposal is too urban for their rural setting.

“All schools of the scale pro­posed should be located in an urban area, close to the current and future population it will serve, not in a rural area which is inappropriate for urban scale development and is not earmarked for additional urban growth,” they say.

Jane Taylor is another prominent objector – she’s also a QLDC planning commissioner, as well as chair of the board of controversial new council quango Lakes Leisure.

Also a Speargrass resident, Tay­­­­lor says the school will “substantially degrade the rural amenity of what is arguably one of the ‘jewels’ of the Wakatipu Basin”.

Local artists Brian Millard and Marilyn Palmer-Story believe the school will have a “detrimental effect” on their business, The Watercolour Workshop.

Their home faces the proposed playing fields and they think the school will “irrevocably destroy” the surrounding beauty.

Millard and Palmer-Story worry about the number of buses and cars needed to transport kids, believing the school would be better-placed in Frankton.

Meanwhile, Rene Kampman – St Joseph’s board chair and former owner of QLDC’s private regulatory contractor CivicCorp – says he’s concerned the issue will lead to “a tremendous waste of re­­sources whilst the parties argue amongst themselves instead of sitting down and finding a solution”.

“I’ve seen it over the years – the parties can get entrenched and go nowhere. And the only ones who benefit are the lawyers and the consultants.

“I’d rather see the money being spent on education or new resources.”

The hearing is expected to be held in mid-February and will be overseen by commissioner David Collins.