Ageing facility gets no extra funding
A rundown high school in the Pilbara has been left out of the State Government’s multimillion-dollar funding commitment for major projects across the region, despite parents and its principal describing it as being in a “state of disrepair”.
The North West Telegraph reported the reality of conditions at Hedland Senior High School back in December 2018, when principal Bill Mann blasted conditions on the campus with its deteriorating buildings, hazardous and open drains, no outside undercover area, and substandard toilet blocks.
Last week funding was confirmed for other high schools across the Pilbara, including $22 million for Karratha Senior High, which is just seven years old, and $42m for Roebourne District High School.
Despite the school community yearning for an injection of cash, Hedland SHS was left out, with parents from the school joining a chorus of voices against the decision.
Hedland Senior High School Parents and Citizens Association vice-president Michelle Nethercote said she was disappointed to see Hedland had missed out in the latest round of funding.
“The Pilbara generates significant income for our economy, yet our school is not on par with metropolitan schools,” she said.
“We want our students and staff to be afforded the same quality education as anywhere else in WA.
“We are grateful for the recent Royalties for Regions allocation, however it didn’t even cover the anticipated upgrade costs, let alone provide greater improvements to the school.”
Following the December 2018 revelations, $500,000 was injected into the school which then-mayor Camilo Blanco said was “pocket change” compared to what was needed, and which WA Nationals Leader Mia Davies dismissed as “papering over the cracks”.
In April 2019, Education Minister Sue Ellery announced a further $703,000 in repairs funding for the school, bringing the total to $1.23m, around $9m short of what the Port Hedland school council had called for.
Another $15m was then announced after the State Government reached an agreement over royalty deductions with mining giant BHP in June last year, which saw the company pay back $250m.
Liberals candidate for the Pilbara Mr Blanco said he had petitioned Ms Ellery over the lack of investment in Hedland Senior High School, but he had been told no funds were available.
“The $15m announced for Hedland SHS was a condition put to the State Government by BHP in order to finalise the royalties saga,” he said.
“If BHP did not enforce that condition, Hedland would not have received a cent.”
Nationals WA candidate for Pilbara Scott Bourne said the State Government’s decision to build a $50m bike bridge for the Perth CBD was a bitter pill to swallow for Hedlanders crying out for funds for the school.
“The State Government is funnelling Royalties for Regions money — to the tune of $1.8 billion since 2017 — out of the regions and into the metro area to fund foot bridges, a new Kwinana Port we don’t need and Metronet, while those who live beyond Joondalup go without,” he said.
When visiting South Hedland last week, Premier Mark McGowan said enough funding had already been allocated to Hedland projects like the port upgrade and Pundulmurra TAFE.
“There’s been a lot of money spent on Hedland Senior High School and it’s improved out of sight,” he said. “We’re spending $22m here at Pundulmurra, we’re building a new hospital in Newman, and we’re putting the Spoilbank Marina in place.”
Hedland Senior High School principal Bill Mann, who has been a vocal proponent of the need for funding at the school, said he was happy with last year’s $15m announcement and expected more to be allocated in coming years.
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