School fighting for three years to get drains fixed

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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