Rural Women New Zealand is calling on the Minister of Education to gift or lease closed rural schools to local communities, and has requested a meeting with Minister Hekia Parata to discuss the proposal.
"Over the years many rural schools have closed when the Ministry has decided they are no longer viable, and often the buildings are left to fall into disrepair," said RWNZ national president Liz Evans.
"We'd like to see them gifted or leased at a peppercorn rent to local communities so that they can breathe new life into them and put them to good use."
Evans says the buildings can be used for playgroups, adult training or workshops, or to bring rural children together for correspondence or teacher-led school lessons as well as extra-curriculum activities.
"It could mean an alternative to long bus journeys to take children to other schools outside the district."
She says the Government is promoting community solutions to community issues, and gifting unused school buildings will lead to creative and smart uses of these assets, which are currently being wasted.
"We are aware of some communities that are looking at fundraising to retain a qualified teacher, and others that are investigating business partnerships to keep their rural schools open."
RWNZ says by using existing resources, rural communities can become resilient without blowing the budget.