Work to build $12m school be­gins

New kura con­structed on site which was sub­ject of le­gal bat­tle

The Northern Advocate - - Local News - Im­ran Ali

Con­struc­tion of a $12 mil­lion school in a small North­land com­mu­nity has started af­ter a pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle be­tween the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and lo­cals.

Work on the new Te Kura Kau­papa o Te Tonga o Hokianga at Koutu Point, be­side the Hokianga Har­bour, started in June and is ex­pected to be com­pleted in mid 2020.

Earth­works are cur­rently be­ing un­der­taken by min­istry con­trac­tors Ar­gon Con­struc­tion, of Auck­land, to pre­pare the ground for lay­ing of the foun­da­tions.

The ex­ist­ing kura at Whiri­naki is made up pre­dom­i­nantly of tem­po­rary build­ings on a leased, un­der­sized site prone to flood­ing, and lacks spe­cial­ist learn­ing fa­cil­i­ties that se­nior stu­dents need for sub­jects such as sci­ence.

The new kura is be­ing built on a more suit­able site on flat land as part of a $12.4 mil­lion project com­pris­ing new class­rooms, li­brary, ad­min­is­tra­tion, gym­na­sium/ mul­ti­pur­pose space, re­mote learn­ing suite and other fea­tures. The ex­ist­ing school will con­tinue op­er­at­ing un­til the new kura is com­plete.

The new build­ing will ac­com­mo­date up to 150 stu­dents and can be ex­panded to cater for up to 200.

Min­istry ed­u­ca­tion in­fras­truc­ture ser­vice head Kim Shan­non said the prin­ci­pal and staff of Whiri­naki School were ex­pected to run the new kura.

“Staffing num­bers in schools and kura are de­pen­dent on the stu­dent roll, which can fluc­tu­ate from one year to the next. There can also be changes in staffing due to pro­mo­tion, res­ig­na­tion or re­tire­ment.”

In 2014, a row erupted be­tween the min­istry and the lo­cal com­mu­nity which wanted the ex­ist­ing school at Whiri­naki ex­panded in­stead of be­ing moved to a new site.

The dis­pute reached the En­vi­ron­ment Court and a spe­cial three-day hear­ing was held at the Copthorne Ho­tel at Omapere.

Te Kura Kau­papa Maori o Te Tonga o Hokianga was granted wharekura (high school) sta­tus in April 2010, en­ti­tling it to ex­tra ac­com­mo­da­tion and class­rooms.

The min­istry opted for re­lo­ca­tion rather than ex­pand­ing the ex­ist­ing school be­cause of the risk of flood­ing, land avail­abil­ity and ten­ure.

Hokianga res­i­dent Diana El­lis, of Te Hikutu hapu, who rep­re­sented her­self, and 11 wit­nesses at the court hear­ing, yes­ter­day said she op­posed the new site for en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons.

She said the qual­ity of the har­bour wa­ter and the kaimoana in it were cru­cial to the well­be­ing of chil­dren.

“I am a strong ad­vo­cate for the de­vel­op­ment of the new Kura Kau­papa, in­deed any de­vel­op­ment that ben­e­fits the peo­ple of Hokianga.

“But I vig­or­ously op­pose to the lo­ca­tion for the new ku­rakau­papa at Koutu Point for en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons.

“The main con­cerns are the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts on the Hokianga har­bour from out­fall of stormwa­ter and the on­site sewage treat­ment sys­tem.”

But the min­istry ar­gued any ad­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects from the pro­posal would be in­signif­i­cant and could be mit­i­gated with con­di­tions im­posed.

PHOTO / SUP­PLIED

An aerial shot of the site of the new Te Kura Kau­papa o Te Tonga o Hokianga at Koutu Pt, which is ex­pected to be com­pleted by mid 2020.

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