SHARE

The Government has invested $46million in redeveloping Mount Aspiring College, but board of trustees chairman Dr Ian Hall wants more.

Dr Hall impressed on Education Minister Chris Hipkins, during the minister’s school visit on Friday, that future development must continue beyond the current classroom, theatre and library project to include a bigger gymnasium.

The current build is expected to be finished next year and should cater for a forecast roll of 1800.

The current gymnasium fits 650 pupils, but the school is already at 1140, Dr Hall said.

That meant the year seven to year 13 school cannot meet as a whole unit and assemblies were split for seniors, another for juniors.

He pointed out the old pool site to the minister and suggested it be acquired from the Queenstown Lakes District Council for future school development.

The old pool site is on a council-owned reserve between the gymnasium and music rooms.

The Wanaka Community Pool was closed when the council built a new Wanaka Aquatic Centre at Three Parks in 2018.

In 2017 then college head prefects Campbell Russell and Mackenzie Ayres headed a proposal to develop the old pool site into a community and performing arts centre. The proposal received a positive endorsement from the board of trustees, mayor Jim Boult and the Festival of Colour.

More please . . . Education Minister Chris Hipkins speaks at Mount Aspiring College last week, where he was lobbied to invest more funds into development at the school. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK

Council communications spokesman Sam White said the Ministry of Education has expressed an interest in acquiring the site, given it is close to the college.

“Any decision by council on the site’s future will naturally involve engagement with the Wanaka community and other stakeholders,” he said.

Mr Hipkins was not able to respond before publication deadline.

Dr Hall said events had overtaken the 2017 proposal and quite recently a community trust had formed to work on an arts centre proposal and fundraising.

There would be a theatre included in the school’s current redevelopment and it would be better to use the old pool site for a gym, as an asset for both school and community, he said.

Dr Hall’s proposal has support from the school’s current student leaders.

Year 13 co-head prefect Meg Thomas said pupils were looking forward to getting into normal classrooms again.

She had noticed a large growth in the roll since she was in year seven.

“I have definitely seen a large growth within the school, from things such as portable classrooms, having to have classrooms in things that are temporary, to even the fact we can’t fit the whole school into the gym anymore so we have to split into junior and senior assembly,” she said.

Co-head prefect Olive Blyth moved from Auckland to Wanaka in year 10.

Olive used to go to a school of 3000 pupils and felt Mount Aspiring College was small.

“But now that I have gotten used to it I have noticed that, like Meg is saying, having assemblies that are quite split off is quite different,” she said.

“So it will be great to anticipate some changes that will allow for some more flexibility and a little bit more accommodation of a larger group of students and different needs.”

College board of trustees student representative Annabel Hutchison said pupils were excited about the new facilities and wanted more.

“Nobody loves a temporary classroom. From what I hear, everyone is really keen for the new build. Everyone is really excited for new changes, new buildings in the school. The gym size for split assemblies isn’t fantastic so it will be super awesome when we have got the new builds, that we can accommodate for all that.”

Significant progress was being made on Mount Aspiring College’s new teaching spaces, whare, studios and library, Mr Hipkins said during his speech last week.

He acknowledged Wanaka was one of the fastest-growing communities in the country.

“This investment recognises that Mount Aspiring College is growing rapidly and needs both expansion and modernisation to cope.”