A recently released Cabinet Paper shows the Government is going ahead with axing public-private partnerships for building and maintaining schools, but the reasons for doing so simply don’t stack up, National’s Associate Education spokesperson Simeon Brown says.
“PPPs are an effective way of building long-lasting school buildings quickly and removing the burden of school property management from teachers and boards so that they can focus on students’ learning.
“The PPP model has also helped to save millions of dollars which have been reinvested into the school property portfolio. Scrapping PPPs will mean less money for school property.
“The reasons listed in the Cabinet Paper for why PPPs for schools should be scrapped are flimsy and at odds with its approach to PPPs for transport. It has never given a good reason for the difference between having PPPs for transport but not for school infrastructure.
“Labour’s ideological approach to PPPs is only going to make it harder to build safe, modern facilities quickly and means teachers will have to spend more time managing school property rather than on students.
“National invested a record $5 billion in school property. This included projects fixing leaky buildings and legacy issues as well as the Christchurch schools rebuild, the $79 million Western Springs College rebuild and the $22 million upgrade for The Gardens School.
“But we knew there was still more to do. That’s why a further $4.85 billion had been set aside for school property, with PPPs being a key way to maximize that investment.
“Without PPPs, the Government will struggle to make the investments needed into school property and given Labour’s recent U-turn on PPPs for prisons, I hope Education Minister Chris Hipkins will see sense to do the same on PPPs for school buildings.”
The co-location of Marlborough Boys’ College and Marlborough Girls’ College is under threat with the Ministry of Education confirming the project is under review, say National’s Associate Education Spokesperson Simeon Brown and Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith.
“In 2015 the previous Government announced plans to co-locate Marlborough Boys’ College and Girls College’ onto one site. The $63 million project is now in serious doubt as the new Government has put it under review despite overwhelming public support,” Mr Brown says.
“The two schools and the community have worked hard with the Ministry of Education on the design of the campus, which was expected to be built through a Public-Private Partnership. We know that PPPs can provide cost savings and deliver more innovative facilities.
“The Ministry has been in discussions to secure land for the campus since 2015. However, with the failure to secure a site and uncertainty created by the Government around the future of PPPs, the community is understandably worried about the co-location project.”
Mr Smith says news that the project is now under review will only fuel these concerns.
“The co-location is a great opportunity for Blenheim to build on our already excellent educational facilities by providing a more modern, innovative and state-of-the-art campus for the young people in our community,” he says.
“It is very disappointing to learn that the project has been put under review, especially given several years of community consultation and overwhelming public support.
“Staff, students and parents have poured their hearts into developing plans for the co-location of their schools and it would be a real shame for all their hard work to go to waste.
“The Government has allowed the Whangārei Boys’ High School redevelopment to go ahead as a PPP as originally planned – Marlborough Boys’ and Girls’ Colleges deserve the same treatment.
“This is about ensuring our young people get the best opportunities to be successful. The Government needs to put aside its contempt for PPPs and allow this project to go ahead.
“I will be hosting a public meeting with Nikki Kaye and Simeon Brown on May 6 at 4.30pm, venue to be confirmed. We want to hear from the community their thoughts on the review and the best way forward.”
Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown’s Members Bill to toughen up the penalty for suppliers of synthetic drugs has passed its first reading in Parliament today.
“My Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill will increase the penalty for suppliers of synthetic drugs from a maximum of two years’ imprisonment to a maximum of eight years,” Mr Brown says.
“Psychoactive substances, like synthetic cannabis, have been wreaking havoc in communities across the country and it’s time we cracked down on those who peddle these dangerous drugs.
“My Bill will amend the Psychoactive Substances Act to bring the penalty for those convicted of supplying illegal psychoactive substances into line with the penalty for those convicted of supplying Class C drugs.
“It aims to not only take these suppliers off the streets, but to deter others from producing and/or supplying these drugs.
“I’ve heard from far too many families who have lost loved ones to synthetic drugs. There were over 20 reported deaths associated with synthetic drugs over the last year – we can’t allow this to continue.
“It’s no surprise the soft-on-crime Labour and Green parties voted my Bill down, but I’m pleased it will be going to Select Committee where we will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from families affected by synthetic cannabis.”
National MPs Denise Lee, Simeon Brown and Jami-Lee Ross have today launched a petition to gather support for the East-West Link which is now uncertain under the new Government.
“In announcing that the East-West Link is being sent back to the drawing board, the new Government has clearly signalled it does not understand the urgency of Auckland’s congestion issues,” Ms Lee says.
“The value of this project to residents, businesses, and the council should make it of utmost importance to the new Government but all we have is uncertainty and the dismissal of a monumental amount of work that has been carried out to date.
“After a decade of planning and $50 million of investigative spending, you would expect that there was a clear direction on the project. This project has been through a fine toothed procedural process like no other. It is supported by council, iwi, and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Inquiry.
“The current gridlock is a major barrier to commerce. This is making it difficult for people getting access to their basic daily goods. It is quite literally the bread and butter of transport projects.”
Mr Brown says many residents in Pakuranga work at or own businesses that would have benefitted from this project.
“With freight movements in the area expected to double by 2035 it is an important part of the solution to Auckland’s transport issues.
“The area targeted by the East-West Link employs approximately 68,000 people and contributes roughly $4.6 billion a year to Auckland’s economy. The key aspect of the project is to create a further connection between State Highway 1 and State Highway 20 and improve connections to rail and freight hubs in the area.”
Mr Ross says the hold up on this project means that the wider East Auckland area won’t see the full benefits that would be delivered by transport projects like East-West Link and AMETI.
“Botany is home to the growing East Tamaki industrial area, projects like East-West Link are very important for ensuring that freight can be moved more efficiently in the future.
“This is an important project that the Government has wrongly thrown into uncertainty. We will continue to push the Government to include the project in their plan and we encourage the public to show their support through signing the petition.”
The petition can be found here.