Two new schools, one primary and one secondary, are to be built in Hamilton's fast-growing northern suburbs, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced in the city today.
Between $7 million and $10 million has been set aside for the primary school which will open in 2015 in Flagstaff, while the secondary school, likely to be for Year 7-13 students, is to open in 2016.
Ms Parata said the Government recognised Hamilton North was one of the country's fastest growing areas currently with 1900 primary school aged children, a figure expected to swell to 2500 by 2016.
However the announcement at a public meeting attended by hundreds of residents who have been waiting for a secondary school in the area for more than five years, was met with some scepticism.
Parents wanted to know why a primary school would be built before a secondary school which they believed there was a greater need for.
"We are talking about both a new primary school and new secondary provision and about both over the same period of time," Ms Parata said.
She did not rule out the possibility the schools could be operated through a public-private partnership and that they could be charter schools.
"Those are decisions well down the track. We are focusing on the appropriations that we have and consulting with the community about what kind of provision you want," she said about a public-private partnership.
Whether the schools could be charter schools depended on "the applications made by interested organisations".
Parents also queried where exactly the schools would be located and how and when the zoning would be determined.
Ms Parata confirmed that nine hectares of land bought by the Government in 2010 next to new primary school Te Totara, was secured with the intention of using for a high school.
Labour list MP Sue Moroney said she was surprised at the plan to open a primary school first.
"That's not where the need is. I just don't think they're in touch with what the community sees as the priority."
Ms Moroney added that while two primary schools in the area might be at capacity, at least one other, Te Rapa Primary School, was not.
"I don't think Hekia Parata has got any certainty or any knowledge about how that decision might affect the existing school network."
Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker said the news was positive but there could have been more clarity.
She said the council would advocate bringing forward the opening year of the secondary school but acknowledged it would take longer to build a high school.
Ms Hardaker said the council would also re-look at issues of shared community assets such as swimming pools, libraries and gymnasiums within the schools.
Community consultation for the primary school will take place now with a final decision expected in June, while consultation on the secondary school would begin in August with a decision expected before the end of the year.
Establishment boards for both schools will be set up and they will determine each new school's policy, governance practices and influence school design.
The board would also appoint the principal and staff.By Natalie Akoorie Email Natalie