16 Sep 2016

Local schools balk at University's plan to sell Karori campus

9:41 am on 16 September 2016

Failure to tell a pre-school it was transferring Crown land to Victoria University in 2014 has led to an apology from the Ministry of Education for 'stuffing up'.

Victoria University's Karori Campus.

Victoria University's Karori Campus. Photo: Google Maps.

The chair of Karori Kids said it may close if the university's controversial plan to sell its Karori campus went ahead.

Hundreds of concerned locals packed a meeting last night with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Victoria University of Wellington and the City Council.

The university bought the land from the Ministry two years ago and intends selling it for a profit but many locals

want the Ministry to keep it for future schooling needs.

Vice chancellor Grant Guildford said the campus, used for its education courses, was surplus to requirements and surveys showed students were not enjoying life there as much as on the Kelburn campus.

Staff found it isolating, and the number of students enrolling in courses was falling, Mr Guildford said.

Teachers, local sports clubs and residents said they wanted the Ministry of Education to consider keeping at least part of the campus for future use.

The Ministry of Education's director of education for the Wellington region, Sue Strowger, said it was now assessing whether or not all or part of the site would be kept for future education services.

Ms Strowger said it was working closely with Wellington City Council so it could make an informed decision.

She would not take questions after the event, but did provide a verbal statement.

"We recognise this is a really important decision and we're exploring the options about whether we need the land or part of it ...we can't rule anything out."

The Wellington City councillor Andy Foster said the council was considering options for the site.

Mr Foster said the Ministry of Education's engagement with the kindergarten, school and other groups had so far been inadequate.

"The education side of things so the Karori Normal School I think the Ministry has to do some direct work there as well as maybe through us as well.

"Sometimes we get hammered for our consultation process but at least we do it more regularly than some others and perhaps the University and the Ministry are not so au fait with being able to do that."

Karori Normal School netball spokesperson Rachel Hannah said about 160 girls from 16 teams used netball courts on the campus, but their sport was in jeopardy.

"Karori Normal School has two courts available for practise on and those courts need to be shared with other users. If we lose Victoria University as a facility for practising we will not be able to accommodate practises at Karori Normal School given the lack of infrastructure there."

Campbell Kindergarten and an early childhood centre said they were not even told by the Ministry about the land transfer in 2014.

The chair of Karori Kids, Karen Schofield, told the meeting the centre would not have invested $136,000 on upgrades if they had known about the transfer.

Ms Schofield warned that the school could close as families would not want to send their children there due to uncertainty over the future of the land. Her plea to the Ministry of Education for it to communicate with the centre and secure its future met with loud applause.

"We need to be fairly treated and we expect to be engaged with you as you consider the options the campus may offer for the Karori community and so far we have not been engaged."

The chairperson of the parent committee at Campbell Kindergarten, Lucy Lendrem, said it was worried about the families and their children.

Ms Lendrem said the Ministry of Education did not even tell the kindergarten it had a new landlord.

"The first we heard of this was when it was in the newspaper and we're obviously really concerned for the 60 families that attend our kindergarten because we don't know what the future holds and if we'll still be able to send our children there."

A decision is expected to be reached on the land's future in the next 18 months to two years.