by ROWENA OREJANA
Careful borrowing and spending by the New Zealand Catholic Church and the National Catholic Education Office will see more schools built and school facilities updated around the country this year.
New Zealand’s bishops have lifted the moratorium on new capital works. The outgoing chief executive officer of the Catholic Education Office, Br Sir Pat Lynch, said the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference and the NZCEO board “have agreed to lift the moratorium on new capital work funded through borrowing, and replace it with a controlled debt release model”.
What that meant, he said, was that the new model determined the amount of loan money to be borrowed for new capital investment, based on the national system’s ability to pay existing debt and service new borrowings.
Br Sir Pat said this model is regularly tested by a competent outside financial agency, to ensure it is robust.
Catholic schools are funded through National Attendance Dues income and an Indebtedness Sharing Scheme. The latter enables all schools to have access to loan money.
“To the credit of our schools in more affluent areas of the nation, many of these institutions are able to help themselves quite substantially and thus ease the burden on less affluent schools,” he said.
The ban on capital spending was put in place by the bishops at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. Bishops conference secretary, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn, explained that the moratorium was imposed to ease the burden on parents who were paying higher attendance dues. “For some years, the bishops said, ‘Look, we can’t just keep building more and more, because it’s too burdensome for parents’.”
The bishops and the NZCEO, however, recognise the need for Catholic schools to be competitive. Br Sir Pat said: “Catholic education is a precious opportunity the Church community offers to its members. Its quality is largely dependent on those charged with delivering it, yet, at the same time, up-to-date facilities enable quality education to be delivered.
“Clearly, our Catholic schools need to be competitive in terms of having facilities which reflect the requirements of the State School Accommodation Code and hence the need for continuous capital investment,” he added.
Br Sir Pat said it is also important to make Catholic education available in areas where new residential communities are established. ”Hence, the new schools that have progressively been opened in recent times,” he said.