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Privatising the Wakatipu?

( A recent public meeting to discuss independent schooling options in the Wakatipu region spiked interest from many sectors of the community.

Queenstown’s school aged population is reportedly growing at twice the projected rate. Studies conducted in 2008 projected a 5% growth rate per annum for this sector of the community, while Plunket statistics indicate figures closer to 12%. While these figures alone should be enough to get the Ministry of Education to put pay to the communities concerns over capacity issues, many school aged children are not actually born in the district, making it difficult to assess the actual extent of the problem.

While current capacity issues are obvious across the board, the lack of schooling options is also of major concern. As many as 300 High School aged children currently leave the district, opting for boarding school. Many more families are thought to relocate to larger centres in favour of diverse schooling options.

Meeting organiser, Lisa Guy was quick to point out that Wakatipu High School was not under scrutiny and that the issue was one of “capacity” and “options”.

Various outcomes to come out of Wednesday nights meeting were that with growth rates as they were there is definite interest in alternative options for education in the region. In addition to local support, there was also suggestion of strong support from the Kiwi ex pat community overseas, whose interest was noted via email. It was also suggested that should Wentworth go ahead with the project, community support would ensue.

Guy said that progress of the project would be dependant upon a variety of factors. Foremost, land and initial investment were required to get the project off the ground. To start the process, dialogue is commencing with potentially interested developers and a steering group would be formed to facilitate discussion.

There was some concern over the initiative creating a divide in the close knit community and potentially even making the current education crisis in the region worse by signalling to the Ministry that a private option would solve the many issues currently being fought.

It is clear that the region is in an Education crisis. One would have to wonder, that while the Government was quick to jump on the Queenstown bandwagon when it came to promoting this region as the gateway to New Zealand, why then would it not look after the hard working community that kept this town running 24/7.

Media Release 29 March 2012.



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