Calls to exempt cold schools from heater replacement crackdown

Schools in the coldest areas of the state, including Glen Innes, should be exempt from the crackdown on replacing unflued gas heaters, according to Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay.

He said his office had been fielding calls from anxious parents over the government’s decision to leave the unflued heaters in place until they had reached the end of their serviceable life.

“It is a matter of great concern to school communities in the Northern Tablelands and quite unfair that young people with respiratory conditions should be exposed to risk because of faulty government equipment,” he said.

The MP said it was not a one size fits all situations and required a rethink by the government. Better policy would be to make it a staged program first targeting schools with students most at risk from emissions and where recommended safety measures could not be applied.

“That is certainly the position in the Northern Tablelands with its extreme winter climate where it is out of the question to leave windows open to create cross draughts,” he said.

“It defeats the purpose of having heaters, particularly when temperatures reach such low levels between April and October.”

Mr Torbay said only nine Northern Tablelands public schools, including Ben Lomond, had received replacement heaters before the government curtailed the program, out of the 55 public schools in the electorate. No schools in the Glen Innes district made the list, meaning they will have to wait until their heaters reach their use by date before being replaced.

“While I acknowledge these schools (receiving the replacement heaters) are certainly in some of the coldest areas of the region,” Mr Torbay had said at the announcement of the priority list, “I will also ask the Minister to include other high altitude schools at Uralla, Armidale, Glen Innes, Deepwater and Tenterfield,”

Mr Torbay has written to the Education Minister asking for a meeting to discuss the issue.

“I will be putting to him that prioritising unflued gas heater replacement to target the most vulnerable schools is preferable to putting the whole program on the backburner,” he said.