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School threatens to cut water supply to neighbours

By Sharon Fergusson

Published: 7:38PM Saturday December 08, 2012 Source: ONE News

A high school has voted to turn off water and wastewater to its neighbouring primary school and kindergarten if the Ministry of Education will not help pay the bill.

Waiheke High School, near Auckland, has no mains supply, so built its own bore and waste water system, which cost around $50,000 a year to run.

"We just can't go on like this. It's just so unreasonable and so unfair and I think the high school operates fantastically considering how much money we're just not getting," said Jane Scorey, chair of the school's board of trustees.

The school gets some funding from the Ministry under the heat, light and water portion of its operations grant, but principal Neil Watson says that money falls short by around $30,000 a year.

Watson said: "In the last three years we've spent $82,000 and that's the same amount of money we've had to cut from our science labs. The Government talks about encouraging science and engineering and we've had to pull money out of science to spend it on our water and sewage systems."

This week the board of trustees voted to stop providing water and wastewater services to outside organisations unless they agree to pay for it.

The organisations include Te Huruhi Primary School, Waiheke Kindergarten, a recreation centre and some private homes that used to belong to the Education Ministry. Services will be switched off on January 27, two days before the new school year starts.

"It's not going to get fixed while we're solving the problem for everyone by picking up the tab, so we've got to stop that," said John Stansfield, a member of the board of trustees.

In a statement, the acting principal of the primary school Tess Parlane said: "We agree that Waiheke High School has a serious issue. We support them in having their costs for water and sewerage adequately paid for by the Ministry of Education."

The statement also said the contribution the high school is asking for would be 6% of the primary school's entire bulk grant - enough to put the school's future in doubt.

Across both schools, Waiheke High provides water and waste water services to around 800 students. ONE News approached the Education Ministry, which said there are a significant number of schools supplying a similar number of students or more. When pressed for an example, the ministry didn't respond.

The ministry's group manager John Clark will meet with the school on Monday. If a solution can be found, the high school will not go ahead with plans to switch off supply to its neighbours in January.

Several years ago the ministry paid the bill, but in emails to ONE News this week it has indicated the emphasis will be on dividing the bill fairly between parties, rather than contributing to it.

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