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Sale of vacant school sites could reach $41m

Published: 5:20AM Tuesday February 26, 2013 Source: Fairfax

The Government could pocket more than $41 million if it sells the sites of all Christchurch schools it proposes to close under its sweeping education reform.

But with some merging schools not due to relocate until 2016, it could be years before for sale signs appear.

The Ministry of Education plans to sell school sites left vacant by closures and mergers.

Seven schools are due to close and 12 schools could merge into six, under interim decisions released last week.

The 13 sites left vacant have a combined rateable value (land and buildings) of $41.2m, according to the most up to date statistics released in 2007.

The value of Greenpark School, which is proposed to close, was not available.

The schools that are due to close are likely to shut next year.

However, some schools set to be merged could remain on their sites until 2016.

Burwood is mooted to merge with Windsor next year, but is not due to move until 2016.

Last year, ministry earthquake recovery programme manager, Coralanne Child, told Fairfax: "The ministry will sell empty school sites under the Public Works Act to free up capital to reinvest in the city's school network."

However, until Education Minister Hekia Parata announces her final decisions on the closures and mergers in May, no schools will be put on the market.

"You can't pre-empt any of this," Child said.

When the ministry sells schools it must abide by the Public Works Act. It states:

- If the land was given to the ministry it must be offered free back to the former owner, who must, however, pay for any ministry-funded improvements such as buildings.

- If not gifted, the ministry will then see if the school is required by another government department or territorial authority.

- If the property is not needed for another public work, it is offered for sale, at market value, to the previous owner or their heirs.

- If it is not sold through the offer-back process, the land is assessed under the Maori protection mechanism and the sites of significance process.

- If there is a Maori claim to the land, the property is purchased by the Office of Treaty Settlements and held pending the Government settling the claim.

- If there is an existing claim on the land, which has already been settled, then iwi may have the right of first refusal included in its deed of settlement.

- Once a property clears these steps it can be sold on the open market.

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