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School donation seals property purchase

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/05/2016 By Sarah Robson

A $100,000 donation to a local high school helped wealthy overseas investors looking to buy sensitive land in central Otago seal the deal.

Glenorchy Homestead Limited, which lists David Koong Wey Ghuang and Lim Mee Len as directors, was granted Overseas Investment Office approval in January to buy a 20-hectare property near Arrowtown, valued at $2.7 million.

As part of its application to purchase the property, the company said it would make a donation to the Wakatipu High School Foundation, which would use the money to provide students with digital devices.

In a letter to the Overseas Investment Office in support of Glenorchy Homestead's application - released under the Official Information Act to Labour - Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall explained that the school had decided to implement a "bring your own device" policy for all students in 2016.

That would mean students would need to bring a digital device, like a tablet or iPad, to school every day for use in their classes.

Mr Hall said while the majority of students wouldn't need financial help to buy one, about 30 per cent would.

The donation from Glenorchy Homestead would enable the school to provide financial assistance to those families who need it and train staff in e-learning, Mr Hall said.

In a statement, the Overseas Investment Office said that since 2009, a total of 16 schools, universities and other educational institutions have benefited from donations, grants or scholarships made by applicants.

Such donations are offered voluntarily and are a condition of the consent that is monitored.

Prime Minister John Key said he's comfortable with the donation made by Glenorchy Homestead to Wakatipu High.

"If you look at how someone can get support for their OIO application, one of the things they can do is have community support," he told reporters.

"It's no bad thing that they can do that, it's a contribution to the community they're effectively investing in."

But Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins has raised concerns about the affordability of digital devices and the prospect of schools having to rely on donations from the likes of overseas investors to equip their students with them.

"The law guarantees every Kiwi kid a free schooling, and that's what the government has a responsibility to fund," he said.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said it's up to schools to decide if and how they provide digital devices.

But she pointed out that while schools can ask parents to buy a digital device for the children to use at school, they can't require them to.

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