It all sounded so ideal at the beginning. As its contribution, the Ministry of Education permits the use of its land and the former Auckland City Council provides the bulk of the money, over one $million, to build a dual use (school/community) facility at Waiheke High School. The annual running cost of $75,000 p.a is provided through a Council grant from rates and the Centre is administered by a Trust (made up of school personnel and user groups with one Council representative) to ensure everyone gets a fair crack at the kumara.
Almost immediately it went pear shaped. The big sticking point was hours of use for the community as opposed to hours of use by the school. The ‘community’ Recreation Centre quickly became a school gym with a few odd hours available to the public should they wish to access them. Predictably, the school held firm on restricting community access to hours outside those required by the school, that is, week days from 7am to 4pm. It seems ‘stranger danger’ also refers to a facility the public thought was as such theirs as the school’s.
Then, again predictably, user group volunteers for the Trust became harder to find. Being a legal trustee has its responsibilities, on top of looking after your ‘community’ user groups. Understandably, the Trust handed over the Council’s $75k to various ‘management’ organisations, some better than others. The limited hours available to the public predictably limited first its usage and then public interest. Time and heavy school use had its toll. Repairs and upgrades were needed.
Now the school gym is set to become even more costly to the ratepayer. This Waiheke Local Board is proposing to hand over a further $35k every year, on top of the $75k already committed, with no questions asked and no solution to the access problem.
This is the same model being proposed by the Local Board to fund and run a so-called community pool on Waiheke – read, “School gets new pool for pupils”. The only difference being the scale of ratepayers’ investment with the massive additional cost of building, operating and maintaining a swimming pool as opposed to a school gym.
If, as looks increasingly likely, the Local Board goes it alone to fund a school pool there will be virtually no money left to make all the ‘small local improvements’ so vital to making a difference in our community. The Board has already flagged that it is going to deprive residents and ratepayers of $1.4 million of much needed projects to fund the schools. The annual running cost is projected to be half a million dollars. All of which will come from your rates.
On top of all this there is a big question mark over where the schools stand on this. Do their Boards of Trustees (BOT) even want a pool? In their haste to fulfil an election promise, the Local Board hasn’t produced any evidence that the schools are actively pursuing this project. Where are the BOT resolutions backing the school pool idea? When did this discussion take place? Yet the Waiheke Local Board has handed over $25,000 of ratepayers’ money to these BOTs to come up with a model that will deliver them a ‘community’ funded pool on their land. Talk about pushing your own barrow with other people’s money and putting the cart before the horse.
Or is this a cosy deal to reward Green Party supporters with a general election coming up? You’ll recall that Chairman of the High School BOT is John Stansfield, partner of hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche.