Rural Women New Zealand is calling on the Minister of Education to gift or lease closed rural schools to local communities, and has requested a meeting with Minister Hekia Parata to discuss the proposal.
“Over the years many rural schools have closed when the Ministry has decided they are no longer viable, and often the buildings are left to fall into disrepair,” says RWNZ national president, Liz Evans.
“We’d like to see them gifted or leased at a peppercorn rent to local communities so that they can breathe new life into them and put them to good use.”
Liz Evans says the buildings could be used for playgroups, a venue for adult training or workshops, or to bring rural children together for correspondence or teacher-led school lessons as well as extra-curricula activities.
“It could mean an alternative to long bus journeys to take children to other schools outside the district.”
She says the Government is promoting community solutions to community issues, and Rural Women New Zealand believes gifting unused school buildings will lead to creative and smart uses of these assets, which are currently being wasted.
“We are aware of some communities that are looking at fundraising to retain a qualified teacher, and others that are investigating business partnerships to keep their rural schools open.”
Rural Women New Zealand says rural areas continue to attract young people, and by making the most of existing resources, such as disused school buildings, we can help to grow resilient communities, without blowing the budget.