Hunter schools win millions to fix up in NSW schools backlog funding

Repairs: The state government said the estimated cost of the backlog maintenance list was $775 million, down from more than $1 billion. It manages a $25 billion property portfolio of 2200 schools. Picture: Simone De Peak
Repairs: The state government said the estimated cost of the backlog maintenance list was $775 million, down from more than $1 billion. It manages a $25 billion property portfolio of 2200 schools. Picture: Simone De Peak

HUNTER schools are poised to reap the benefits of a state government funding injection for maintenance projects, but the boost will only go part-way to clear their backlogs of repair works.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes announced $60 million on Tuesday to target schools with the longest job lists, on top of $330 million announced in last year’s budget to be spent on maintenance over two years. 

From a pool of $390 million, Rutherford Technology High will receive $1.8 million, Irrawang High $1.1 million, Cessnock High $1.05 million and Hunter River High $1 million for works including roof repairs and replacements, new carpet and painting.

The Department of Education would not confirm if and what proportion of the school’s funds had already been allocated in last year’s $330 million figure.

Principals of the four schools did not respond to request for comment.

Mr Stokes said in a statement to the Herald the fact that “four of the top ten schools with some of the greatest maintenance backlogs are located in the Hunter region is a direct result of Labor's chronic under-investment and lack of attention to the Hunter”.

“Once again, this government is getting on with the job of delivering the local infrastructure the Hunter needs to grow and prosper,” Mr Stokes said. “It is expected that the outstanding maintenance tasks at these four schools will be able to be slashed by more than 60 per cent as a result of this funding.”

Shadow Minister for the Hunter Kate Washington said figures obtained by the Opposition showed the schools would still have sizeable backlogs, even after receiving the funds.

Cessnock High faces a shortfall of $682,840 for its repairs, Irrawang needs another $668,961; Hunter River an extra $647,687 and Rutherford another $155,443. 

“A lot of schools haven’t seen any money from last year’s announcement,” she said.

“The government has only topped this up by $60 million, while the Land and Property Information service has been sold for $2.6 billion and funds have been set aside for a new stadium and an infrastructure build in Sydney.

“It clearly shows their priorities that they can’t put enough money aside to ensure our schools aren’t crumbling.”

The Herald reported in February that documents released under freedom of information laws had revealed $775 million in outstanding maintenance in the state’s schools.

The Hunter had 19 schools with backlogs of more than $1 million.

Mr Stokes said a new specialist assets unit announced last week, Education Infrastructure NSW, will take over responsibility for the schools maintenance program.

He said a new “lifestyle condition assessment system” would improve management of the maintenance backlog, including introducing a triage system to prioritise tasks.

EARLIER

By Matt Carr

HUNTER schools will take a big share of a $390 million state government blitz on maintenance in NSW schools. 

Rutherford Technology High School will take out $1.8 million to bring its classrooms and equipment up to scratch, one of five Hunter schools estimated to receive big cash injections. 

Fairfax Media reported in February that the school had a $1.9 million backlog of works. 

It is another boost for the school in Maitland’s growing western edge, which recently opened a $19.8 million suite of classrooms and learning spaces to replace 16 ageing demountables. 

Raymond Terrace’s Hunter River High and Irrawang High are also among the funding winners, a list that also includes Cessnock High School.  

The money is aimed at schools where the need is the greatest, with Education Minister Rob stokes announcing an extra $60 million on Monday, added to the $330 million allocated in the previous budget.

The funds will go specifically for the schools with the longest list of jobs awaiting cash. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was essential the state’s schools were improved. 

“Well-maintained schools lead to better educational outcomes, and we want our schools to be in the best condition possible,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“An investment like this will ensure that those schools with the greatest need receive the most urgent attention.”

Roofing, flooring, painting and other items will be fixed by December next year under the plan, which the state bills as eradicating the to-do list for numerous schools. 

Great Lakes College at Forster, Hunter River High School, Irrawang High School and Cessnock High School will all receive funding. 

Mr Stokes said Education Infrastructure NSW, a specialist assets unit announced last week, will take over responsibility for the schools maintenance program.

“The new lifecycle condition assessment system will ensure maintenance needs are managed to keep schools in good condition at reasonable cost,” Mr Stokes said.

Mr Stokes said with a $25 billion property portfolio of 2,200 schools there will always be maintenance, but good management will keep the list as short as possible.

The estimated cost of the present statewide backlog maintenance list is now $775 million, down from more than $1 billion under Labor.