By: Nicholas Jones
The research by Property Economics has been exclusively released to the Herald on Sunday ahead of Epsom MP and Act Party leader David Seymour’s Epsom campaign launch today.
Seymour commissioned it after becoming concerned future growth was being underestimated, and the pressure that will put on near-full state schools like Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar (EGGS).
Auckland Grammar is already spending $86,000 a year to enforce its zone, including on private investigators to confirm students actually live where they claim. It estimates 1200 apartments are being built in its zone at the moment.
The area where the two schools’ zones overlap – the Double Grammar Zone – commands a financial premium of hundreds of thousands of dollars compared with homes outside the enrolment area.
“The school zoning actually drives development behaviour, rather than the other way around,” Seymour said.
Property Economics looked at the likely apartment and building development in the Epsom electorate under the Unitary Plan.
Under the low development scenario, it calculated a long-term (about 20 years) total population increase of 28,254, with 5114 of school-age children. The medium scenario forecast a 6069 school-age increase, with 8039 extra school students under the high growth scenario.
There are currently about 14,000 residents of school age. Auckland Grammar has a roll of about 2525 students while EGGS has around 2200.
Seymour said he wanted the ministry to face up to such increases, and for the wider community to begin a discussion around how to cope with the changes.
In the past he has floated the idea of removing the automatic right to attend local schools from residents in yet-to-be-built apartment or housing developments, and said he still believed that should be considered.
Other options included changing existing zoning, which he believed was unfair, or building a new high school and allowing families to choose where they send their child.
Another option was to develop a co-educational middle school under the joint banner of AGS and EGGS, with the existing schools taking senior students only.
Seymour stressed he was not advocating for any option, but believed a conversation needed to be started. In the meantime, support was needed to help increase capacity at existing schools.
“At the moment, for example, Auckland Grammar can’t have an assembly with all the kids in one hall. There is more and more concreting over the fields and the things that most people regard as a New Zealand school become harder to do.”
Auckland Grammar headmaster Tim O’Connor said his school had told the ministry some 1200 apartments were being built in its zone, but there had been no interest in helping the school prepare for long-term roll growth.
“It is time they sought independent advice, such as the type of report David Seymour commissioned… one size doesn’t fit all, and enrolment zones in central Auckland require specific attention.
“Our monitoring shows 22 per cent of our roll moved into zone six months or less before they started.”
O’Connor said another problem was house prices and rising rents driving families and teachers to more affordable areas, and that “concerns me greatly”.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye said significant investment had been made in Auckland to ensure schools could cope wi a growing population, with Budget 2017 committing $240m to creating more places in the city’s schools.
The ministry is developing a 30-year plan for Auckland, and its forecasting is based on Statistics NZ population growth.
“As Minister I’m very happy to see any reports David as the local MP has commissioned, and we take into account a range of information when considering growth projections.”
In May Kaye outlined a set of principles to guide possible investment in a new “Metro schools” model, which could help meet future demand in urban centres like central Auckland.
Similar models are used overseas and can involve locating a school in a smaller site that may be leased. Such a school could use community facilities like playing fields rather than having its own.
Source: NZ Herald