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Australian companies eye up school projects

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley

Wellington, July 22 NZPA - Australian companies are lining up for a piece of the action as the Government moves towards public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build and maintain new schools.

Infrastructure Minister Bill English and Education Miunister Anne Tolley announced yesterday they were taking the initiative to the next stage -- detailed business cases and decisions on individual schools.

The plan is to have private sector operators financing, building and maintaining schools for a set term, with government retaining ownership of the land and the schools.

Boards of trustees would be left to concentrate on day-to-day running.

Australian companies Ganellen and Plenary Group are both eyeing the opportunities.

Ganellen director David Taylor told NZPA the company was interested in becoming a project sponsor of PPPs in New Zealand.

"We welcome the decision to move ahead to a detailed business case," he said.

Melbourne-based PPP specialist Plenary Group has previously signalled an interest in New Zealand initiatives but has said it would need a pipeline of projects to expand here.

A tender process for building the schools could start early next year, subject to Cabinet approval.

Education union NZEI and the Labour Party said last night the only winners would be the companies involved in the PPPs.

Labour's education spokesman, Trevor Mallard, said PPPs would mean "short-term gain for long-term pain".

He said an Audit Commission report in Britain found new PPP schools were no cheaper, better or quicker to build than those established with public money.

"The Crown can borrow more cheaply than the private sector, so this doesn't make financial sense," Mr Mallard said.

NZEI spokesman Ian Leckie said overseas experience showed PPPs could result in poorly maintained buildings and jeopardise school and community access to facilities.

"They raise the threat of foreign ownership of New Zealand education and open up education to the advertising or branding of private investment," he said.

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