Stressed primary schools are struggling to fend off enrolment challenges from pushy out-of-zone parents.
Heads of decile 9 and 10 schools in some of the Auckland's most desirable areas say they don't have the funding or resources to keep up with increasingly complex ruses from people claiming to live within school catchments.
Popular high schools have long complained of zone cheats but it has now spread to primary levels.
Overworked headmasters are knocking on doors in their own time during evenings and early mornings to weed out the pretenders.
They say it is the only way to catch people. Some school staff even pore over power bills to compare electricity usage with a typical family. But the parents appear to be winning.
Ministry of Education figures obtained by the Herald on Sunday reveal Auckland schools have annulled 16 enrolments, unchallenged, in the past year. In another 24 cases, parents have challenged the rejection.
The ministry ruled in the parents' favour on 14 and directed the school to accept the enrolments. In three other cases, the schools backed down and accepted the child.
Only one primary school - decile 8 St Heliers - won an enrolment challenge by proving the pupil did not live in the catchment area.
Principal Craig McCarthny said the child was looked after during the day by an in-zone relative "but the parents lived in the next suburb and the kid went back there after school".
Decile 9 Glendowie School lost after rejecting an application for a 4-year-old boy even though the family had previously enrolled another child questionably.
"The enrolment came in very late and we were suspicious because we knew the family house was out of zone," principal Anne-Marie Biggs said. By the time the ministry became involved the family had rented in the zone.
Even decile 7 Ellerslie School fends off dozens of bogus applications every year. Some think it will be an automatic ticket to the emerging One Tree Hill College.
"It is not uncommon for someone to pay to have Sky TV installed at a mate's house in the zone so their name appears on a bill," said principal Chris Magner.
Tricks used to enrol pupils from out of zone
• Have the child stay with relatives
• Pay for someone in Zone to have Sky
How they're caught
• School monitors electricity bills at the 'family home'
• School staff door-knock home addresses