School fighting for three years to get drains fixed

July 2nd, 2008 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

I’ve just watched last night’s Close Up, after Bernard Hickey blogged about it.

If you did not view it, go watch it now. It is disgusting. They have spent three years fighting the Ministry of Education to get their drains unblocked etc. Finally they wrote to the Minister Chris Carter but he hasn’t even replied to them, so in desperation they went public:

They’ve had 25 meetings with the Ministry of Education over their property plan. You wonder why numbers at the Ministry of Education has increased so much – this is why. Let me quote Bernard:

The school’s poor principal, Diane McCallum, and the board had been jumping through bureaucratic hoops for three years trying to get a decision on fixing the decrepid school buildings. ’s drains overflow when it rains, flooding the toilets and the playing fields with sewage. The students have to walk on duckboards to cross the playground. McCallum is worried that the students are afraid to go to the toilet because of the smell and therefore may struggle to learn.

The rain gets into the wires and sets off the fire alarm. The principal has to climb on a ladder and jam blu-tack into the alarm to stop it ringing when it rains so classes aren’t disrupted. The school wanted some money for some new buildings or to renovate the buildings. There had been 25 meetings with the ministry and 3 different building plans had been submitted. Consultants had visited at a cost of NZ$24,000. Letters had been exchanged. Formulas considered. Yet nothing happened.

Then the boiler broke last week. The Ministry of Education told the principal to buy a bunch of heaters because it wasn’t worth fixing the boiler. The school then spent NZ$4,000 on oil column heaters to warm up the school so the students wouldn’t be too cold. Then the caretaker turned them all on and the electrical system shorted out.

An apt summary of the background. And then the Ministry:

The Education Ministry’s National Property Manager Paul Burke first went through his bureaucratic routine of trying to explain why the school hadn’t quite jumped through all the hoops yet, despite three years of trying. He was trying to explain the shape of the hoops, the number of hoops, how round they were, what they were made of and the exact nature of the leaps required to jump said hoops. He wore a lovely suit with a beautiful tie. He seemed like a man who knew the rules very well.

I wanted to throw things at the television. Mike Hosking avoided throwing things. But he did quickly tear apart the Kafka-esque web the good bureaucrat was weaving. Why was it taking so long? Why couldn’t the drains be fixed? How many consultants does it take to change the lightbulbs at Tiaho school….and why?

I’m just amazed that we make schools jump through such hoops and have to get Wellington to approve a new boiler. Sounds like a case for for me. Sure large exceptional items will always be an issue, but forcing a school to spend three years and 25 meetings justifying why they need the drains and sewers unblocked is madness.

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19 Responses to “School fighting for three years to get drains fixed”

  1. Bryan Spondre (556 comments) says:

    Exactly David. We already employ highly trained, well paid managers at schools called principals supported by Boards of Trustees. Based on my observation of Anne Malcolm, principal of Ponsonby Primary, these are highly skilled, highly motivated individuals more than capable of managing budgets and getting the job done quickly and efficiently.

    I’m sure the principal in question would be more than capable of getting competitive tenders to get the drains, the electrics and the heating system fixed. Why on earth did we need to pay consultants $26,000 ????

    Why do we pay a bunch of bureaucrats huge salaries to do a job (slowly & expensively) we are already paying principals to do ? Bulk fund now !!!!

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  2. Buggerlugs (1,592 comments) says:

    From the Supplementary Estimates debate last week (apologies for long post):

    ERIC ROY: —like it did with the charitable donations policy, I say to Mr Swain. Let me give members one piece of policy right now, and then I will expand on it. I have just listened to the Hon Mark Gosche asking where we will get the extra money for education. You see, one of our policies is smarter and better Government spending.

    I will give members one little example that I am aware of, in terms of how to get extra money for education. In my electorate of Invercargill, right on the border, there is a school called Dacre School. This school received a visit from the education people, who wanted to make sure that everything was tickety-boo there. They assessed the school and found that the administration block of the school was under code. That meant that there was not enough room for the people who did the administration. So architects were brought in, and they drew up plans, got a consent, and built an administration block that was up to code. They spent $143,000 on this.

    That is wonderful, but we need to know that the school roll had been declining for about a decade. So eight pupils were at Dacre School, and $143,000 was spent. The people from the education department said not only that the administration block was under code—and that this was not helping their children learn—but that they had looked at the boiler, it was sadly in need of replacing, and that would cost another $53,000. The board of trustees at Dacre School comprised pretty laconic, good rural business people. They took their hammers, their leavers, and their chippers, and they looked at the boiler. They looked at the welding and the pipes, and they said that there was nothing wrong with the boiler and that they would not waste taxpayers’ money. Then the education people said that if the board of trustees did not spend that money and the boiler broke down, they would not fix it. So the education department, in round terms, wanted to spend $200,000 on eight kids. This is factual.

    About 4 years ago, the Hon Trevor Mallard, when he was the Minister of Education, did some terrible things in Invercargill without consultation. Someone on the ninth floor told him that he would not be closing any more schools in Southland, because he had done it all wrong. So $143,000 was spent on Dacre School, and they asked: “Why not spend another $53,000?”. Then the part of the education department that managed school transport said it would not renew the bus contract. So the money had been spent, and then the school had to be closed because the transport department would not provide transport to bring the kids to school. This is factual; it actually happened.

    But it does not end there. I am not sure whether the school was technically closed, because the board of trustees said that this was a nonsense and that a better environment had to be found for kids to learn in than at this shrinking school. The education people said that the school had not yet closed, and that a principal needed to be appointed for 4 months so that if someone came they could be told that the school was not taking pupils. This is absolutely true.

    Then we had the whole process after that 4 months where it was decided who would receive the assets of the school. The school had received big contributions from the local community that helped to build the covered swimming pool, and provide for all of those things that happen in a rural school. And the Hon Mark Gosche stands up and asks where we will get the money from to deliver these extra things in education! I can tell the member quite clearly. It is funny, but it is sad. We have a governance system that has completely lost the plot, and that has been totally ruled by bureaucrats who either have not been getting instructions or have been telling the Government what to do.

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  3. paradigm (452 comments) says:

    This disgusts me. In cases where the students health is at risk (ie raw sewage leaking) we should see instant approval and funding for the facilities being fixed. Were this man competent, he’d have some sort of reserve fund set aside for unplanned but critical projects such as fixing sewage pipes. The fact that they have had 3 years to allocate specific funding to this and have failed to indicates their ineptitude. Perhaps we should fire this National Property Manager and redirect his sallery into repairing the drains.

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  4. getstaffed (9,186 comments) says:

    Situations like this will present regularly between now and the election.

    There are going to hundreds of nails and not much coffin left by the time the Labour Government takes its last gasp.

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  5. infused (654 comments) says:

    Good read Buggerlugs .

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  6. slightlyrighty (2,472 comments) says:

    This sort of madness is endemic within Government. Nothing is being done. We see it’s effects in health, where the spending in health has grown by Billions, yet “outcomes” do not seem to change.

    This sort of spending, as outlined by Buggerlugs, is exactly why the rail buy-back makes me nervous.

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  7. PhilBest (5,121 comments) says:

    You said it, slightlyrighty.

    Watch out, everybody, or Aunty Helen will be making us all write out 100 times, “bulk funding is evil”……..

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  8. Grant Michael McKenna (1,159 comments) says:

    Dear Leader,
    Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Bulk funding is evil. Now can I think for myself?

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  9. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    I am trying to be fair-minded here: The MoE has a large property portfolio from literally one end of the country to the other. Anyone who’s tried to get hold of a tradesman would know full well that the good ones aren’t exactly sitting on their butts waiting for the phone to ring. And even if they were, I doubt their maintenance budget consists of a blank cheque. Naturally there’s got to be clear accountabilities for expenditure of public money. But paradigm is right. Surely when you’ve got fricking sewage backing out the drains on a rainy day, there’s got to be some mechanism to have that dealt with immediately?

    After my better half restrained his urge to throw something at the television, he made a good observation. What would happen to any landlord or employer who let their property remian in that kind of state for years? You’d have the full majesty of the law on the owner’s back like the proverbial tonne of bricks. Paul Burke would certainly have that smirk wiped off his face PDQ.

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  10. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    “You’re better of with Labour”!

    I’m sure that Chronic and Phool will be along to explain to us why the school is actually at fault any moment.

    Just as soon as their Axis of Crapweasles meeting gets out.

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  11. Right of way is Way of Right (1,121 comments) says:

    As I have said for years, beurocrats exist solely to preserve the SYSTEM, and have no correlation with actual results!!

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  12. wreck1080 (3,885 comments) says:

    My son just turned 5 and started in a class of 28!!! Coincidentally, the government just announced that there will now be funding to reduce class sizes from 18 to 15.

    I was quite angry that there were 28 in the class. I queried the teacher about this, and she laughed saying the government just does not provide anywhere enough funding to implement even 18 children per classroom.

    What an utter joke. Why does a 1st grade teacher know more about budgeting than the 1000’s of education bureaucrats? Could it be the reason there is not enough funding is because of the number of bureaucrats? I think so.

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  13. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    And so you Socialists pricks Now you know why we in the private sector get pissed off with this government If my premises had even started to get to a 10th of this situation the governments goons would have been around and locked me up under the OSH and associated laws.

    Meanwhile the Gumint and its agencies can get away with what ever it likes.

    Its called 2 faced arsehole behaviour. And its endemic Its not isolated Its everywhere Trouble is most of it is hidden from the citizens with the offenders threatening anyone who blows the whistle.

    We have an evil governance system in this country and it starts from the top and continues all the way down.

    Remember the fish rots from the head

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  14. Pita (373 comments) says:

    Last night on close up we were treated to the spectacle of a bureaucrat defending his bloated salary…no doubt the exposure will lead to the principal loosing her job and the minister sacking the board for being dysfunctional.

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  15. llew (1,533 comments) says:

    was quite angry that there were 28 in the class.

    Did they say “class size” of 18-15? Just wondering – it used to be (forever) that they measured students per teacher – except they counted everyone on the school staff as a teacher – teacher aides, librarians, caretakers… so you could still be in s class of 40 kids, but averaged over the whole school, it might be reported as 20 students per teacher.

    Never seemed right to me.

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  16. tom hunter (4,749 comments) says:

    I’m outraged by the mean-spirited, tight-fisted government that thinks money is more important than the children. Think Of The Children.

    What we need is a government that will raise taxes from the greedy, grasping rich pricks for whose nefarious agendas the little children are suffering. With this vast flood of money the government will be able to build the giant bureaucracies required to deliver to the needs of people. The public infrastructure needs to be re-built vastly and rapidly.

    I say we need to do this now, NOW.

    I say vote Lab………Oh!

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  17. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,746 comments) says:

    Remember the economic good times of the last nine years when Labour couldn’t spend money quickly enough so that they didn’t have to give it back as tax cuts? Well the chickens are coming home to roost now.

    There is plenty of poor quality spending out there just waiting to be revealed and continue to embarrass the government. The problem is all governments are rubbish at delivering value for money. Labour just excels at it. That’s what happens when you spend other people’s money. So much for Labour “sharing and caring”.

    Does this mean that Labour’s idea for riding the knowledge wave is for school children to literally surf on waves of raw sewage?

    Something stinks here and that’s Labour’s economic mismanagement of the country for the last nine years.

    Time for a change!

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  18. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,746 comments) says:

    Doesn’t this example of government incompetence demonstrate that Labour is literally poo poo! :D

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  19. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,746 comments) says:

    Well at least if the kids can’t play on the sports field because it’s all covered in shit they can head to the school tuck shop for a pie and full sugar coke to relieve the stress of the situation. Oh, wait………

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