School planned for $2.25m site

By John Cousins

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Catholic Diocese schools manager Graeme Roil, Father Mark Field and Peter Washer with St Thomas Aquinas Parish members on land tipped for a new primary school and church. Photo/George Novak.
Catholic Diocese schools manager Graeme Roil, Father Mark Field and Peter Washer with St Thomas Aquinas Parish members on land tipped for a new primary school and church. Photo/George Novak.

A new Catholic primary school and church could be built next to Aquinas College after the church paid $2.25 million for a 1ha site on Pyes Pa Rd.

The purchase was announced at a meeting yesterday at St Thomas Aquinas College.

Parish priest Father Mark Field said the purchase was a unique opportunity. St Mary Immaculate Church in the city centre was the only large church on the western side of the city and was at capacity.

"When the opportunity came up to purchase a parcel of land adjoining the boundary of our college, in an area with an increasing concentration of Catholic residents, it was simply too good to pass up."

The land will be jointly purchased by the Catholic Diocesan of Hamilton and the parish, with a settlement date of August 31.

A site analysis and planning study will be carried out to determine the best use of the property to meet the future needs of the Catholic community, he said.

Father Field said the owners of the property at 205 Pyes Pa Rd approached the church with the first option to buy the land, valued at $2.3 million.

Development was likely to take up to five years once the site analysis and planning was finished.

All options would be considered on the potential to share facilities with Aquinas College.

Other factors influencing the decision to buy included that St Mary's Catholic School in 13th Ave was expected to reach its maximum roll of 500 next year and further development of the site was challenging.

"A second school in Tauranga would alleviate the pressure on enrolments."

Father Field said the diocese had also bought land in Papamoa for a school and church, but this would not ease pressure on the Tauranga parish and school.

With Tauranga's population projected to rise by 50 per cent over the next 25 years, the numbers of Catholics attending Mass could increase to at least 2000 each Sunday.

The diocese's schools manager, Graeme Roil, said the church was experiencing huge challenges in high-growth areas like Tauranga and Hamilton.

Growth was occurring faster than expected and the church was having to buy into the market.

"That is our challenge."

He said the diocesan finance council decided that if they passed up the chance to buy the Pyes Pa property, it would be lost forever.

The strategic review of the whole site would take account of the future needs of the college, the future needs of the parish and the potential for the land to accommodate a primary school as well.

Mr Roil said a primary school "would certainly be our desire".

Quizzed on whether 1ha would be enough land for a church and primary school, Father Field said two-storey school buildings could be a more efficient use of the land.

The meeting was told a new Catholic primary school next to Aquinas College would be a win for the Ministry of Education, with planning already well advanced to build a state primary school at Pyes Pa.

Parishioner Jim Byrnes thanked the parish council for being so forward-thinking.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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