School heater setback

MEMBER for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay has vowed to keep pushing for unflued gas heaters in schools in Tenterfield to be replaced despite the NSW government refusing to budge on the issue.

The government decision has disappointed local parents who are concerned their children will have to continue learning in classrooms with the old heaters for another winter.

“I was very disappointed with the minister’s response,” Mr Torbay said.

“I think the health of children should go above and beyond party politics.”

During question time last week Mr Torbay asked whether the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli would consider giving schools in cold places like the Northern Tablelands a priority in the heater replacement program.

Mr Piccoli replied the government would not because it was not part of current policy.

The Woolcott report, commissioned by the previous government, recommended heaters that breakdown should be replaced. Mr Piccoli said the government was following those recommendations.

Nine schools in the Northern Tablelands have had some heaters replaced already.

Mr Torbay said the O’Farrell government was elected on the promise it would replace the heaters and should follow through.

“I think people would understand if decisions are made in difficult situations, what they won’t understand is decisions that are misleading... nothing more than a money saving exercise” he said. “I have had a number of representations made to me from community members concerned about the health of their children.

“I will continue to work with the minister and the government to see these changes.”

One parent who has made a representation to Mr Torbay is Leeza Wishart whose nine-year-old daughter Ella goes to Sir Henry Parkes Memorial Primary School

Mrs Wishart said Ella suffered respiratory problems as a result of the heaters and had to have a puffer for the first time from June to November last year.

Mrs Wishart submitted a draft petition to the parents and citizens committee last night and hopes that with the group’s support, she will be able to reach the attention of the minister and have all the heaters in the school replaced.

“I believe the government has a duty of care under OH and S (occupational health and safety) legislation to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff,” Mrs Wishart said.

“If the kids are having to take time off because of headaches, nausea or respiratory problems than the government is failing in their duty of care.”