5 Apr 2024

More than 350 school building projects under review, Ministry of Education documents show

1:10 pm on 5 April 2024

Whether the projects are paused would be "considered on a case-by-case basis", the ministry says. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Data from the Ministry of Education shows 352 building projects across 305 schools are under a 'value for money' review, with only three already under construction.

The ministry said the driver for reviewing projects was the rising cost of construction, and the need to bring costs down to deliver more projects to benefit more schools.

It was not part of the ministry's 7.5 percent savings target, resulting in mass job cuts akin to those across the public sector.

Education Minister Erica Stanford said in Feburary the review was "absolutely not" a cost-cutting exercise, but the government had inherited a system "bordering on crisis".

At that stage, some projects were weeks away from shovels in the ground, but "funding available hadn't been managed well enough to meet what schools understood had been approved", she had said.

The data shows as of January, three of the projects under review were in the construction stage already: new classrooms at Kirwee Model School, and watertightness remediation at Nayland College and Karori Normal School.

The review means some projects may not go ahead. Whether the projects are paused would be "considered on a case-by-case basis", the ministry said.

The ministry, on its website, said in some instances, the reviews would happen "quickly and with little disruption".

"With others, it will become apparent early in the process that cost efficiencies will need to be made and these projects will be paused while the best solution is identified."

In some cases, projects would be altered to be more efficient, by "using simpler designs and materials that [the ministry has] used before, instead of starting from scratch" or by "refurbishing existing buildings rather than building new and driving better value for money solutions for other facilities needed by schools, such as gyms, libraries, and halls".

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