Mushroom farm odours mean curtains close on contested Havelock North school site

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After more than a year of controversial debate, there will be no educational facility - Kura Kaupapa or primary school - built at a contested Havelock North site.

As Hawke's Bay Today predicted the Ministry of Education yesterday announced the Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Wānanga Whare Tāpere o Takitimu would not be relocating as planned to the former site of the Arataki Motor Camp.

Ministry of Education Director for Hawke's Bay and Gisborne Roy Sye said an environmental evaluation found the site was not suitable for a school as it was affected by odour emissions from the nearby Te Mata Mushrooms operation which could distract learning.

The evaluation was based on complaints records in the area, the predominant wind direction, and consideration of recommended separation distances from the mushroom farm.

Mr Sye said a new preferred site in Hastings had been identified, and a final decision would be made "as soon as practicable".

"We will work with the kura on the site selection and the design of their new buildings with the aim of having them open by the end of 2018," he said.

It was originally expected that construction of the new kura would be completed next year.

Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whatiri said she was "gutted for the kura" about the delay.

"I just think somebody has fundamentally screwed up around the original site."

She felt the Ministry had not done their due diligence, and the Hastings District Council had responded to the concerns of Havelock North residents.

"Something just doesn't smell right," she said.

The MP asked what guarantee the Ministry would give the Kura that "this issue doesn't pop up because another community decides they don't want it in their backyard".

When the plan to relocate the Kura was announced last year it came under fire from Havelock North residents who argued the site, purchased by the Ministry in 2009, was earmarked for a primary school to cater for the suburb's growing population - not a kura.

However the Ministry has now said it is considered to be unsuitable for educational purposes, and will be placed "into disposal".

Hastings District councillor Malcolm Dixon said this was a decision which should have been made 18 months ago.

"The Kura is now 18 months behind getting a new building," he said, "and Havelock North still needs a site for a new primary school,"

This time, he said public consultation needed to be done for both sites.

"I'm sorry it's been the mushroom farm operation that's been the catalyst, or the excuse for this," he said, adding he thought the decision had been made because of pressure the Government were getting on the issue.

Tukituki MP Craig Foss said many people had expressed strong views or concerns with him on the proposed kura site.

"That's why, from day one, I've been asking for more information and presenting constituents' concerns to the decision-makers," he said.

He wrote to residents yesterday to ensure they were aware of the assessment and the Ministry's subsequent decision.

"Regardless of how we got there, we got the right outcome for our students, our families and our community," he said.

Last night representatives of the Kura were not in a position to comment.

It was expected the Arataki Rd site would proceed into the disposal process later this year.

This process is governed by current Government policy and the Public Works Act, which requires us to go through several steps before it could be placed on the open market.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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