Dealing with issues specific to high schools in smaller-town New Zealand is almost a life mission for Central Hawke's Bay college principal Lance Christiansen.

He sees big benefits for schools across the Bay with the development of New Zealand's first regional high-performance sports centre.

A teacher at the school in the 1990s, Mr Christiansen - who had a first class rugby career with Wairarapa Bush - returned to CHB as principal at the start of 2012, having during his time as head of Rangitikei College in Marton produced a significant nationwide project Creative Curriculum in Smaller Secondary Schools.

Investigating what was being provided in the smaller schools it barely touches on sport, but wasn't intended to.


But many of the issues could equally apply to a man who the school communities say almost never misses a Saturday supporting the pupils on the fields and courts, and and now has the opportunity to support a significant new arm in the development of their sporting careers.

In the report he noted the proliferation of academies in schools, most commonly sports academies, and said they fulfilled a number of roles within the schools.

"The most important is that they meet the needs of students in their future aspirations," he reported. "They also serve as a means of retaining and gaining senior students within their school, with the associated benefits to staffing and funding."

He appreciates AUT Millennium Hawke's Bay has an extension to that, and in a letter supporting the initiative wrote: "As a rural area, CHB produces a number of talented sporting people and we are proud to have top athletes contributing to New Zealand sport at the highest levels. Unfortunately some of this talent drawn away by larger schools who can offer not only the facilities but also the personnel to enable these young athletes to further enhance their skills."

He said the Hawke's Bay project would "provide an avenue for success that is sometimes unreasonable or unrealistic for some of these students to attain due to our rural nature".

Havelock North High principal Greg Fenton said it would be "tremendous" if athletes could grow their talents on their own doorstep.