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Ganellen, others expected to be interested in building schools

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Pam Graham of NZPA

Wellington, July 21 NZPA - Australian company Ganellen is among a number of offshore companies expected to stick their hands up to build schools in New Zealand.

Business groups today welcomed a statement by Infrastructure Minister Bill English and Education Minister Anne Tolley that officials will prepare a stage two business case, including identifying specific projects, for public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build and maintain new school properties.

A tender process could start early next year, subject to Cabinet approval.

Potential New Zealand investors in PPPs to build schools are PIP Fund, which was set up by Wellington-based Morrison & Co to invest in so-called social infrastructure, and iwi groups.

Ganellen is a privately owned construction company already involved in The Press Precinct project in Christchurch.

David Taylor, Ganellen's director of government and infrastructure, told NZPA that 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," Mr Taylor said.

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

Mr Taylor said size was not such an issue for Ganellen.

"From our perspective it is really our entry into the market," he said.

Under the PPP model the Government is signalling the private sector will build, finance and manage school buildings and school boards will be responsible for educational services.

BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said allowing private enterprise to take on risk in the sector would allow boards of trustees to focus more fully on key educational outcomes.

The contribution of the commercial expertise of the private sector would achieve savings and improve government procurement.

"And it will help rebalance parts of the economy where there is currently an over-reliance on state sector provision, to the detriment of small businesses. Many such businesses are currently squeezed out of the market due to the dominance of the government sector," he said.

An industry observer said the scale of the Government's plan will be important for business.

"In Australia and the United Kingdom there have been clusters of projects," he said.

Sites with several schools provided economies of scale and scope for innovation in educational services, he said. Areas expected to be identified in the business case include Hobsonville and Albany in Auckland, and Pegasus in Christchurch.

The ministers said about five to seven new schools are built each year. Initial savings to the Government would be "modest".

Mr English said the gains would be in more efficient construction with a view to easier maintenance over the life of the asset.

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