MEMBER for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, has pledged $2.5 million to rebuild the Foster Primary School if the Liberal National coalition is elected at the November 24 state election.
Talking to The Mirrorduring the official funding announcement – and flanked by Shadow Minister for Education, Tim Smith; Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath and school council president Matt Wallis – Mr O’Brien said he had been working with the school since 2015 to secure a guarantee on a rebuild of the school.
“Foster Primary School was built in 1965 and is certainly showing its age. The school has asbestos issues throughout and literally has chunks of brickwork falling off its exterior,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It’s at the point where the school shouldn’t continue to spend money on maintenance for things that really need to be replaced. It’s not acceptable that our children and teachers have to put up with these sorts of facilities.’
“That’s why an elected Liberal Nationals Government in November will provide $2.5 million in funding to ensure we see a full rebuild of Foster Primary School.”
Mr O’Brien said he had collected more than 1000 signatures on a petition backing the project, which was presented to the state government.
He said that despite the “enormous community support” the government had failed to commit to a rebuild of the school.
The current state government has guaranteed $1.73 million in funding to replace the Block C and D buildings with architect-designed permanent modular buildings.
The buildings are constructed off-site and delivered to schools.
Mr Smith said it was not enough.
“We’ll fix the mess left by the part-time Education Minister and finish the job so that the Foster community has a school it can be proud of and that local children can get the education they deserve,” Mr Smith said.
“The Liberal Nationals are committed to delivering a better deal for our regional communities and ensuring we have access to a modern and safe learning environment.”
Mr Wallis said he was grateful for the present government’s commitment, but, given the prevalence of asbestos at the school, he saw the rebuild as “no brainer”.
“However we get it, whoever’s in power, we would really support a rebuild. We think it should really be done all at once. Losing all the offices is inconvenient, but to do it all in one would be great,” he said.
“We may not have that luxury, but it’s great that Danny and Tim Smith have made this announcement. Hopefully it will give us some leverage either way.”
Asked whether Labor would match the Coalition’s pledge, Minister for Education James Merlino said his government had “invested more than $27 million to upgrade schools across Gippsland.”
“We continue to invest in rural and regional school infrastructure upgrades to catch up on the backlog of upgrades as the result of years of underinvestment by the former government,” he said.