3 Dec 2020

Union calls for expansion of school funding for coal boiler transition

10:27 am on 3 December 2020

The cost of switching out coal boilers in schools presents a roadblock for the sector, says the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI).

Hot water boiler with open door and fire inside and scoop with coal.

(File image). Photo: 123RF

A state sector phase-out of coal boilers by 2025 was announced yesterday during the climate emergency declaration.

The commitment mentioned phasing out the largest and most active coal boilers. NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford said schools were also in the deal in principle and more work would be done around including them in the coal boiler transition section.

Rutherford told Morning Report they supported the government's moves.

"But government is going to have to partner with schools to allow us to make that transitions. One of the big issues for schools right now is the upfront capital cost, [it's] the biggest roadblock in being able to phase that out."

Cost of replacing coal boilers could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

"In last year's budget, they had put aside funding for about 18 schools to start that transition but the reality is there's about 200 schools out there that are going to need to be a part of that.

"We can't put schools in a position where after 2025 they're the ones having to pay for the offsetting.

"The process they currently have in place for these 18 schools so far looks like it's getting rave reviews around the country while acknowledging we are at the start of it, so we think the easiest thing to do would be to expand the funding pool to allow all schools with coal boilers to jump in on that."

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw told Morning Report there were some challenges to rolling it out to schools because they were under the control of boards of trustees.

"We've got $50 million set aside for taking out coal boilers from schools already and we've started doing that in various places around the country.

"That gets us about half way there so we will need more in order to finish the job.

"That [money] will come from central government.

"This is something we have been rolling out over the course of the past 12 to 18 months."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs