Queenstown’s vacated Playcentre unavailable for flooded BestStart

by Lauren Pattemore - Sep 27, 2023

The former Stanley Street Playcentre is sitting empty whilst caregivers of 70 children scramble to find weeks' worth of childcare as an extensive clean-up operation continues at the BestStart Queenstown centre, which was flooded during last week's heavy rainfall. 

For some parents the option to temporarily relocate to the recently vacated Playcentre space a few streets away from their closed preschool seems an easy solution.

BestStart Queenstown's Hamilton Road premises were damaged by floodwaters overnight on Thursday, forcing the ECE to shut for clean-up (Photo taken Monday, September 25).

But BestStart deputy chief executive Fiona Hughes says even though the Stanley Street space is empty, “unfortunately", it's not an option for her centre to use.

It appears bureaucracy is getting in the way.

Ms Hughes says the building is already licensed to another childcare operator - Playcentre - under the Ministry of Education, and one premises is not able to be licensed to two different operators.

She says it is “frustrating” the space cannot be used.

BestStart Queenstown's building on Hamilton Road suffered “extensive” damage during heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding last week, and Ms Hughes estimates the clean up will take six weeks.

However, she says BestStart was continuing to look around the town for anything that might be suitable, with their property manager travelling down to Queenstown to scope out potential spots.

The Ministry of Education has declined to answer questions from Crux about the licensing arrangements of the Stanley Street premises, but its southern leader Nancy Bell says the ministry is supporting BestStart Queenstown as best they can.

The ministry says they are also looking for different options for a temporary site, and are “working as fast as we can to find a solution”.

The ministry acknowledges there are limited early learning places in Queenstown and the additional pressure this can add to families' lives.

Best Start has given limited empty spaces at its other Queenstown centre to children enrolled at the flooded centre.

Damaged goods are brought outside to dry out in the sun at BestStart Queenstown's Hamilton Rd premises (Photo taken Monday, September 25).

One parent says the closure of the BestStart is “affecting so many families who rely on childcare facilities to work”.

They say there isn't enough alternative care in Queenstown for "everyone to get by", but feels BestStart “have gone above and beyond” to provide alternative options to parents.

Another parent told Crux on Monday some parents have been searching for at-home nannies in the interim.

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