The decision by Wollongong Coal to lease property to Little School Preschool for $1 a year for 10 years was a “pleasant surprise” but in no way “enforced”.
So said preschool director Danae Horsey, who expressed “disappointment” the announcement was made public on Tuesday.
As reported in the Mercury, the preschool located near Wollongong Coal’s Wongawilli mine, was one of the big winners in a deal struck by Wollongong Coal in response to alleged unpaid debts.
But Ms Horsey said she started discussing the proposal with Wollongong Coal when she became director in 2012 of the small not for profit preschool in Dombarton.
“Little School Preschool Inc and the staff, families and children of our service have benefitted from an ongoing relationship with Wollongong Coal Limited over a period of six years,” she said.
“I approached them about using their property and renovating it to use for a preschool to assist in providing more preschool places for the growing community in Wongawilli.
“They've come to the party and said they will allow that for $1 a year which I wasn’t expecting, but it is quite a pleasant surprise.
“But it is not even through the DA stage yet. We are a little bit disappointed it went public yesterday.
“The arrangement is probably six years in the making and predates this undertaking [with the NSW Resources Regulator]. It was included so Wollongong Coal could show the work they had been doing in the community, but it is in no way enforced by them.
The arrangement is probably six years in the making and predates this undertaking...Danae Horsey
“It is something that they voluntarily entered into.”
She nevertheless welcomed the move to lease the property to Little School Preschool for $1 per annum, reduced from $26,000 per year, until January 1, 2023.
“At the moment we can only cater for 16 children a day,” Ms Horsey said.
“We are in the old heritage listed Dapto Public School out on Sheaffes Road. And, while we love where we are, with the growing community in Wongawilli and Vista Park and all those new estates, we are just not big enough.
“So we are looking at expanding to the second location in Wongawilli which will cater for up to 50 children.”
She reiterated that Wollongong Coal staff had long shown “great interest and respect for the work we do in early education”.
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They have also visited the preschool on numerous occasions to provide support and funding in the form of donations towards the service’s sustainability programs and provided much needed resources for their early learning languages’ program.
“I can confirm that any donations on part of Wollongong Coal to the Little School are the result of hard work, respect for our work and relationships building, that serve to improve the education quality for the children of our service and the surrounding community and are not the result of the undertaking,” Ms Horsey added.