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Key's Green Lining?

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Rob West
Rob West

Despite dragging his feet on the vital Emissions Trading Scheme, John Key does seem to be aware of the more tangible aspects of environmental sustainability. He has recently put forward statements concerning the refurbishment of council housing that is now verging on slum conditions, as opposed to knocking them down and building more. Whether he intends it to be or not, this is an indication that when it comes down to it Key understands the basic processes involved in developing a sustainable nation.

Let’s hope he employs the same aspects of his character that made this decision into the crucial refurbishment of our schools. Not only have over thirty six schools and colleges nationwide had buildings proclaimed as having faulty design, after only fifty years of use they are displaying serious damage and leaks, but $ 500 million has been set aside to create new schools and extend our current stock. Though these moneys have been pledged in the election the scope was for “future-proofing” and adaptation for specialist learners. This is admirable, education is everything for the future, however it will mean little if Key does not take this opportunity to greenify our schools. This will be not only a real step toward a more sustainable nation but also an example for our children, showing that the environment is a vital part of their education and their own future. If “future-proofing” means anything, it should be this.

If we aim to create positive learning environments, how can we do so without entitling students with healthy and environmentally friendly classrooms?!

The ministry for Education has developed a New Zealand Green Building Council Green Star rating system to help in the development of sustainable schools. The indoor environment quality, energy use, materials used, emissions, land ecology, water and innovation have all been taken into consideration in awarding the stars to the school.

Alongside this program, the Enviroschools Foundation is assisting in the redevelopment of old schools, which advises schools to utilise contemporary technology and knowledge to improve these areas. Though all this can be expensive, building a new school within a five star remit is on average 10% more expensive, and can be time consuming to initiate there are these bodies that will help to make such things possible. A good start for all schools is to do an environmental audit, the Energy Efficient Schools online guide makes this easy.

When so much private sector and public sector help is being offered in a knowledgeable and technologically advanced way we can’t afford not to invest some of that $ 500,000,000 to advance our schools environmentally in order to preserve the world for the children we are attempting to educate. Let’s hope Keys compassion for sustainability leaks into all aspects of National’s government.

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