SCHOOL Infrastructure NSW chief executive officer Anthony Manning has suggested the government may "insert" a new primary school into its controversial Newcastle Education Precinct "at a later date".
Mr Manning appeared at the Education and Early Childhood Learning Budget Estimates hearing on Wednesday, where he was asked if there was a final business case for the project, which was announced in June 2018.
"I don't think it's finished yet, but it's on track to be completed," Mr Manning said. "It's still being prepared."
Anthony D'Adam MLC asked if the initial project proposal included a new primary school and whether the current iteration did too.
"The original proposal was for us to look at planning for a new primary school," Mr Manning said.
"It's one of the options under consideration but we're working our way through where we think we finally need to land in terms of the timing of when that school might be needed."
Mr D'Adam asked Mr Manning about a November 2020 briefing for the Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell that outlines five options for the project, as was reported by the Newcastle Herald.
The briefing said the preferred option was to not build a new primary school, but instead include an integrated senior school for specific purpose on the Newcastle High site.
"Certainly one of the options that we're working through is that actually there isn't demand at this time and so we might configure a master-planning process to enable a primary school to be inserted at a later date, either in line with the demographics that we're projecting or if the demographics were to change we can respond to a need within the existing high school site, I believe that's absolutely one of the options that's under consideration," Mr Manning said.
Including a primary school, he said, was "absolutely" still an option.
"We can certainly master-plan for a primary school on the existing site, the issue is whether we think the demographics are such that [there is] need to actually fill it just at the moment."
Mr D'Adam asked Mr Manning if that meant the briefing about the preferred option was now incorrect and the position had changed.
"No, so the final business case is yet to be produced so I'll get to see that after when it's been produced," Mr Manning said.
Mr D'Adam asked if the business case would be based on the preferred option.
"No, so the business case looks at all of the options and makes a recommendation around which one is the preferred option to work its way through," Mr Manning said.
"The business case hasn't been finalised yet, it is yet to come to me to sign off, at which point I'll know what the final recommendation is."
When asked if he had made a recommendation to Ms Mitchell about the preferred option, Mr Manning said he'd need to check the briefings to Ms Mitchell.
Mr D'Adam asked Mr Manning when the project was likely to commence.
"I don't know," he said.
"The business case would be produced and... available for consideration by government in terms of whether it wants to fund it."