The NSW Labor opposition has made a bold pitch for support from Tweed Coast communities at the upcoming election with a pledge to build a new $40 million high school at Pottsville which for years locals have campaigned for.
The issue, also a longtime political football in council politics, is close to young families from the fast-growing village and surrounding mini suburbs of Pottsville Waters, Black Rocks and Koala Beach who have been fighting for a local high school to accommodate 1,000 students to cater to the growing number of primary-school aged students.
Just this week, a new $6.5 million school, St Ambrose Catholic Primary, was officially opened at Pottsville.
This morning, Labor’s Tweed candidate Ron Goodman was joined by federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot and shadow state north-coast minister Walt Secord at Pottsville to make the election promise as part of Labor’s $3 billion ‘Better Schools and Hospitals Fund’.
The opposition is highlighting that their commitments to ‘deliver infrastructure’, unlike the coalition’s, do not depend on the sale of the state’s electricity network.
Mr Goodman said ‘the Nationals want to privatise our electricity network but they refuse to build a school at Pottsville’.
‘Labor has a fully-funded infrastructure plan that will keep our electricity network in public hands and invest in a high school for a growing community,’ he said.
Mr Secord said ‘Pottsville is growing and there is a clear case for a high school, yet the Nationals have decided to ignore the local community at Pottsville.
‘Geoff Provest stands in front of schools, hospitals and roads and says he won’t upgrade them unless the community backs his risky plan to privatise our electricity network.
‘He also supports CSG and unconventional gas mining, which shows again that he is ignoring the families of Pottsville on the North Coast,’ Mr Secord said.
Mr Goodman said that by 2030, NSW will have to find places for 347,000 more school children.
‘Overall, the Tweed Shire’s population is set to exceed 128,000 within 15 years – growing by 41 per cent with 37,753 new residents moving to the region,’ he said.
‘In addition, the state government has approved near Pottsville the Kings Forest housing estate with more than 4,000 houses planned.
‘The Pottsville area is a young and growing community. The 2011 census reported that it had 2,663 children between the ages of 0-14, of which 1,768 were between 0-9 years. In addition, it had 872 students attending high schools in other areas.
‘Labor believes that giving our children the best possible education must include providing high quality public schools in the local neighbourhoods of NSW families, whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or in rural, regional and coastal areas.
‘Currently, high school students attend three separate high schools. Travel journeys by bus from Pottsville to the nearest high schools are excessive with Kingscliff at one hour and 23 minutes a dayfor the round trip, Banora Point two hours and 33 minutes and Murwillumbah two hours and 13 minutes.
‘This means that for parents of children with disabilities or health issues, the absence of a local public high school can take a great toll.
‘Pottsville high school would also draw students from Bogangar Primary School (265 students in 2014), Burringbar Primary School (65 students in 2014), and Crabbes Creek Primary School (37 in 2014) totalling 1,110 students in 2014. The remaining 600 students attend other schools including the brand new Catholic school.
‘National Party MP Geoff Provest has twice broken his promise to build a Pottsville high school – in 2007 and 2011.
‘Before the 2007 state election, Mr Provest promised the residents of Pottsville a high school. He has been silent since and claimed that demographers advised that a new high school was not needed.
‘In March 2011, Mr Provest said: “The Tweed needs more public schools not less, particularly, a new high school at Pottsville”, yet after the March 2011 election, Mr Provest said he had only promised to bring Department of Education and Communities bureaucrats to the Tweed to explain why a high school would not happen,’ Mr Goodman said.