STATE education minister Adrian Piccoli has defended the government’s decision to sell 17 Griffith houses formerly reserved for local teachers.
Teachers and local union officials have called on Mr Piccoli to convince bureaucrats to reverse the decision, claiming it will be very difficult to attract new teachers without “teacher housing”.
The 25 teacher housing residences offered to new staff for lease at market rate was Griffith’s biggest incentive and now all but eight apartments will be sold and the revenue taken out of town.
In contrast, Darlington Point, Hay and Leeton offer teachers perks such as subsidised rent and an incentive transfer, meaning they have a priority pick as to where they work next.
Head of English at Griffith High School Nikki Hardie said the middle-band rental market was not good enough to justify the sales.
“I think it will make it really difficult to attract teachers from outside the area because they will be challenged to find affordable accommodation in time to start their contract,” Ms Hardie said.
“When my lease finished in November it took me two months to find a new rental because I have a small child and a lot of places didn’t have secure yards and there were always five or six other families competing for the same house.
“If you were a new teacher coming to Griffith and you were only here temporarily, you would obviously find it difficult.
“It will make Griffith less appealing for new teachers.”
NSW Teachers Federation councillor for Griffith Richard Wiseman said Mr Piccoli needed to defend his home town.
However, Mr Piccoli agreed with the Department of Finance and Services’ assessment that the Griffith rental market was good enough and local resources were needed elsewhere.
“This decision doesn’t fall under Department of Education but I know proceeds of those sales will go to teacher housing in smaller communities where there isn’t a rental market,” Mr Piccoli said.
“I know Griffith has a tight rental market but they are selling some houses to buy properties where there are none in northern NSW and I agree with that – it’s what we should be doing with limited resources.
“The incentives in Darlington Point and Leeton are different because Griffith has the services of a larger centre like supermarkets, regular passenger transport, health and doctors.
“As you go smaller, those services are not acceptable and therefore you increase the incentive, not everywhere can be treated the same and unfortunately that’s the way it is.”