Parakao school prepares for centennial assembly

By Mike Barrington

The centennial of a small rural Northland school closed 12 years ago is expected to be celebrated later this year.

People with connections to the two-teacher primary school at Parakao, in the Mangakahia Valley 40km west of Whangarei, are seeking others interested in attending the centennial so they can gauge how to mark the occasion.

If only a few will be there, a centennial lunch could possibly be held in the Parakao Hall by the school at Labour Weekend.

If lots of people want to attend, a dinner may be organised in the Mangakahia Sports Complex at Poroti.

The informal committee looking into the proposed centennial is led by Rob Soar, who was principal at the school from 1982-96. He taught the senior students and his wife, Maureen, taught the infants after she joined the staff in 1984.

After leaving Parakao in 1996, Mr Soar was principal at Maungakaramea Primary and Mrs Soar taught reading recovery at Hurupaki and Kamo schools until 2003, when the couple spent two years teaching in Singapore.

When they returned to New Zealand in 2005, Mr Soar became deputy principal at Whangarei Primary, moving up to principal in 2010, and Maureen began part-time relieving work in city classrooms.

Another committee member is farmer Margaret Hunter, who has lived at Parakao since 1956 and had five children attend the school.

She is a stalwart of the Parakao community, deeply involved in local affairs and writing about the way forestry, big dairy farms and sealed roads have changed the character of the area.

People with links to Parakao School are asked to telephone Mr Soar on 09 438 4245 or Mrs Hunter on 09 433 1732, or email before March 25 to express their interest in the proposed centennial.

The committee will meet on March 26 to assess the response to the call to what could be the last formal celebration for the school, and the final opportunity for former students to catch up with old classmates.

The Parakao School site was originally part of a 1605ha parcel of land the Crown bought from Maori in 1876.

It was gazetted as a temporary reserve for a school site and then permanently reserved, under the Land Act 1908, by gazette in 1913.

Parakao School was bought for the Office of Treaty Settlements landbank in 2006 and is being held for potential use in future Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

Settlement negotiations have not yet begun and it is likely the property will be held until settlements are completed.

In the meantime, the Crown seeks to offset the costs of holding the property by leasing them out where possible. The Parakao schoolhouse is tenanted.

The Office of Treaty Settlements said improvements on the Parakao school were in fair condition only at purchase and it had not yet been able to be tenanted.

- Northern Advocate

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