The $14 million upgrade under way at Northland College has been officially marked by Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye, who put a new spin on turning the first sod.
Instead of the traditional spade work at a landmark occasion, Ms Kaye flicked a switch to send the first chute load of concrete into the footings of a new classroom block.
"This will be a beautiful place people want to come to. There will be an explosion of education here," she said.
Ms Kaye was at the school in Kaikohe on Thursday afternoon after earlier being in Whangarei, where on behalf of Education Minister Hekia Perata she announced the Government's $19 million extra edcuation investment for Northland, plus a promise that more spending would be revealed over the next few weeks. The $19 million is on top of the Northland College spend, and will provide 16 new classrooms in schools and a new site and buildings for Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Tonga o Hokianga.
Work on Northland College's massive rebuild project has already been under way for a month. In welcoming community members and the ministerial party to the launch of the work, principal Jim Luders said that rather than being a nuisance, the construction noises were "like the sound of music to us".
"I can't describe how overjoyed I am about this and how excited all our kids and the community are," he said of the work at what was described last year as "the worst school [building] in New Zealand".
Ms Kaye said she was also thrilled to see the job getting done. She said she felt she was getting to know the school because she had visited three times in less than a year.
After the ceremony, Ms Kaye told the Advocate the Government knew it had to "ramp it up in Northland" and "we're playing catch-up".
Northland College had more complex needs than just building improvements, she said.