7 Aug 2017

New school site opposed by residents

From Checkpoint, 5:51 pm on 7 August 2017

Redcliffs School was forced out of the seaside suburb after the huge cliffs behind it collapsed in dramatic fashion during the June 2011 earthquake, sending massive boulders crashing on to its back fields.

While the community is relieved the school is finally returning, many are upset it's at the expense of its park.

The park is currently owned by the Christchurch City Council, which is now deciding whether to accept a landswap deal with the Ministry of Education.

The council would be given the site of the old school, which it intends to turn into a park in return for the ministry handing over a different park, where the new school would be built.

As part of its deliberations the council is holding hearings.

Before making his submission today, one of those opposed to the deal, resident Chris Doudney said the old school site was still the best place to have a school.

The park was too low-lying and too close to the sea, he said.

"The lower level [of the park] floods, a tsunami would affect the Redcliffs Park site, a medium to small one that is, not the Japanese type. It wouldn't really affect the existing school site at all." 

After six years without one, everybody in Redcliffs wanted its school back, said another resident, Simi Desor.

She said many were backing the park site because they believed not doing so would risk the school not being built at all.

But she said the community should not let the ministry force them into accepting something they were not completely happy with.

"A lot of people want to save the school, as do we. It's really important, and we've been bullied.

"We've been bullied by the ministry and the minister to shut up because otherwise we'll lose the school, and we shouldn't be put in that position because it's not one or the other, it should be both."

Redcliffs School principal Rose McInerney made an emotional plea to the hearings panel today to do the deal with the ministry.

Holding back tears, she said opposing the park location would further delay the school's return. 

"After six years we are proud to have retained our staff, but attracting new enrolments is becoming increasingly difficult as time rolls on. It will be another two years before the school is built, all going well. We do not have the strength or the energy for any more delays." 

She said the deal was a win-win for the community, which would get a replacement park on the site of the old school and a school with facilities everybody would be able to use.

The Ministry of Education says the disruption caused by closing the school while the cliff's stability was checked would be too disruptive, and the old school site was therefore not an option. 

If the council approves the park site, the new school would be open by mid-2019.