Green School controversy surrounds funding promise

The status of $11.7 million of government funding awarded to the privately owned Green School New Zealand remains unclear with key figures now indicating the majority of the money is a loan.

The Oakura-based school, rocked last week by the resignation of founding principal Stuart MacAlpine, has been at the centre of controversy after Greens co-leader James Shaw announced the school had secured almost $12 million in government funding.

The Associate Minister of Finance announced in late August the funding as part of $3 billion set aside for infrastructure in the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

The Green School said the expansion project would create 200 jobs and deliver $43 million to Taranaki but the funding announcement was met with widespread criticism from schools, unions and the Greens’ own members.

Mr Shaw has since apologised for backing the grant, saying it “was an error of judgment”. and he is now pushing for the money to be given as a loan so it’s paid back in full

“My personal view is that the best way to do this is for the support for the Green School to come in the form of a loan rather than a grant,” he said.

Green School chief executive officer Chris Edwards said this was already partly the case.

“Just to be clear, never, ever was this a 100 per cent grant – not at all,” Mr Edwards told RNZ.

“The application was for a 25 per cent grant, the rest was a series of loans.

“We’re still waiting for information from the Crown infrastructure partnership as to the nature of the fund. We’re waiting for further information as to what that will look like.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has however cast doubts on the ability of the government to alter any pre-existing arrangement.

“I know that Minister Shaw is seeking to come up with another plan, but I haven’t heard back from him about what that is, but as I say, I think it’s an issue of good faith,” he said.

“If the government says it’s going to fund something, we have to go through with that even if one of our partners might regret it.”

Meanwhile the school, which opened in February and currently has 55 students and a capacity for 120, is in need of a new principal after Mr MacAlpine announced his resignation.

In a statement the school said he had been “headhunted by one of the most prestigious global foundations in the world” with more details to follow.

The statement said he would remain at the school at the end of the year and would continue to be involved in the future development of the school’s curriculum.


David Carroll

David is a senior journalist with more than 25 years experience in Australian media, you can find more of his work in our upcoming print issues of School News magazine.
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