5 Jul 2011

Govt waiting before surveying school buildings

5:04 pm on 5 July 2011

The Minister of Education is waiting for the Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission to report back before considering a national survey of all school buildings in New Zealand.

Anne Tolley says while there are concerns about the safety of some older buildings, these are being addressed one at a time.

Finance Minister Bill English is promising to spend more money on upgrading school buildings to make them safe during an earthquake.

Mr English says some older school buildings fall short of new earthquake standards being enforced by local authorities following Canterbury's devastating quakes.

Mrs Tolley agrees it is a problem, but says no nationwide survey has yet been carried out to determine how many school buildings might be at risk.

The Labour Party's education spokesperson, Sue Moroney, says the Government needs to survey school property throughout the country to determine the extent of the problem.

Mr English says the Canterbury earthquakes have reinforced the importance of ensuring New Zealand's infrastructure, including schools, is resilient enough to survive disasters.

It is not clear how many schools might have to have buildings either strengthened or replaced because of tougher rules on building design and strength, but Mr English says the Government won't wait to do the work in schools where it is clearly needed.

"We don't want students in unsafe buildings and if there's evidence of unsafe buildings we won't be crimping on the funding."

Mr English says councils will be looking at whether their standards are the right ones and how practical it is to enforce the standards in short order. "The Government would expect to be proactive about it," he said.

The Government released its second national infrastructure plan on Monday, saying it will spend more than $17 billion during the next four years. In addition, $5.5 billion will be spent rebuilding Canterbury.