School zoning is back on the political agenda this election as National promises to end Labour's "rigid" zoning restrictions.
National education spokesman Bill English said the party's policy was to give parents greater choice and to allow schools and communities to decide whether to use zones.
The party did not intend to abandon zones because many schools needed a device to control their roll and students should be able to attend their local school.
But Mr English said schools would be able to use other enrolments schemes - such as having a list of criteria that could include geographical location, siblings and children of former pupils - to select students.
Schools would also be encouraged to specialise in areas where they had strong skills, such as performing arts, and select students with interests in those areas.
At present zoning is used at crowded schools that allocate any remaining places by ballot.
About 20 per cent of state primary schools, 40 per cent of state intermediate schools, 5 per cent of state composite schools and 30 per cent of state secondary schools have zoning.
After local students, children accessing special programmes have first right of entry, followed by siblings of current students, siblings of former students, and children of board employees.
Labour says its policy is based on the concept that all students should have a right to attend their local school and to attend any other school they choose where possible.
The party says if zoning were removed schools would be able to "cherry-pick" the students they wanted.
In 1989 Labour partly abolished zoning as part of Tomorrow's Schools, but kept a safeguard that all students had a right to attend their local school.
When National came to power in 1990 it allowed schools to control their enrolment policies. But eight years later the party introduced a restricted form of zoning for overcrowded schools.
In 2000 Labour took this further and gave students the right to attend the school within their zone.
Zoning has been a hot topic for many years for social as well as educational reasons.
School zones can increase property prices in "top zones", while the removal of a protective zone can spell the end for schools in underprivileged areas or the formation of "ghetto" schools when students leave for what they see as better ones.
The Greens support zoning because of concerns that without it wealthy schools would try to hand-pick wealthy students.
The party also says if students are attending schools near their homes it reduces traffic congestion and pollution.
Act is firmly against zoning, saying parents should have the right to take their child's share of state funding to a school of their choice - public or private.
Many of the smaller parties have not spelled out a policy.
The case for zoning
* Fair for students as everyone is entitled to go to his or her local school.
* Prevents schools from hand-picking students for their academic or sporting abilities or because of their family background.
* Less segregation and potential for "white flight" (parents avoiding local schools with high numbers of Maori, Pacific Island or immigrant children).
* Improves equality of education across the school system.
* Less traffic and car pollution as students do not have to travel as far to school.
The case against zoning
* Promotes inequality because only children from families living in well-off areas are entitled to go to the best schools.
* Artificially boosts house prices in some suburbs and depresses them in others.
* Prevents students from attending the school that they (or their parents) choose.
* Artificially protects schools with low educational standards because unhappy parents and students cannot go elsewhere.
* Denies schools control over their own enrolment policies.By Ainsley Thomson