Education Minister Chris Hipkins has taken the Marlborough Colleges co-location project back to square one and is now stalling on progress, Kaikōura MP Stuart Smith says.
“Documents released under the Official Information Act (OIA) show that since February, Mr Hipkins has had the opportunity to proceed with the co-location but instead has turned it down in order to begin an entirely new business case process, for which we have not been given a timeframe.”
The documents include a report prepared by the Ministry of Education for Mr Hipkins dated 20 February 2018, recommended two actions: to seek Cabinet approval for additional spending to continue the co-location; or to update the business case options, including any other feasible options and confirm whether co-location is still the preferred option.
“The Marlborough community already voted for its preferred option – co-location - back in 2013. Mr Hipkins’ decision is a significant backwards step and one that is hugely disappointing for Marlborough, particularly as the original $63 million budget to build our colleges, with a completion date of 2021, had already been agreed on by Cabinet.”
Mr Smith says the report states additional funding would have come from existing ministry baseline funding, with financial approval incorporated in Budget 2018.
“Given the Budget was announced last week, Mr Hipkins has now foregone this opportunity and it is unlikely he will seek further funding approval from Cabinet for our colleges any time soon.
“This is little more than a stalling tactic on a very important project for our region. I will continue to put a great deal of pressure behind this issue.”
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.”
National is welcoming the announcement of reforms to the EQC Act but is calling on the release of information around one that could be prohibitively expensive National’s EQC spokesperson Stuart Smith says.
“EQC cover is unique to anywhere else in the world and works very well.
“The reforms announced by Megan Woods today are largely a result of the review of the Act announced by the National Government last year.
“I am pleased that the Government has picked up most of the recommendations particularly raising the cap from $100,000 to $150, 000.
“However, extending the claim period from three months to two years will prove incredibly expensive and problematic.
“In a big event, it will confuse arguments of apportionment between reinsurers so the Minister needs to answer how different events are defined within that two year period.
“Following the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch for example, there were literally thousands of aftershocks, many of which were considered separate events.
“This announcement will likely cause significant increases in costs to policyholders - I’d like to know from the Minister what advice she has had from Treasury about how much this will be - and whether Treasury supports the extension of the claims period.
“I am calling on the Minister to release Treasury’s advice on this matter,” Mr Smith says.
A Members Bill to introduce a legal timeline for insurance companies to assess and present a settlement offer to claimants has been lodged by Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith.
“We’ve just received the recommendations from the review into improving the emergency response to large-scale natural disasters, but we also need to look at how we can make life a little easier for people who are dealing with longer term effects like the loss of their home,” Mr Smith says.
“I’ve heard from too many people affected by the Kaikoura and Christchurch earthquakes that dealing with insurance was more stressful than the earthquake itself. That’s why I’ve lodged the Insurance (Prompt Settlement of Claims for Uninhabitable Residential Property) Bill to provide a timeline for when insurance companies must act by.
“My Bill will require an insurer to make a decision about a claim and notify claimants within six months of receiving the claim. This will speed up the process and give claimants greater clarity about when they can expect a resolution, which will help ease the stress during difficult times.
“While people are required to have their insurance premiums up to date, there is currently no time requirement for insurers to assess claims and make an offer. There must be a clearer understanding of obligations both for the insured and the insurer as to the time it will take for an offer to be made.
“In extreme circumstances, the Minister will have discretion to grant an extension to the six month deadline.
“In a country prone to natural disasters, it’s important after events like the Kaikoura and Christchurch earthquakes that we work to identify lessons and make changes to better our response for future events.
“Putting into law a deadline for insurance companies to make an offer to claimants will be a positive step forward. I look forward to this Bill being drawn from the ballot.”