Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Axe hangs over Hato Petera - consultation begins

Hato Petera College in Northcote, Auckland. The school faces closure after proprietor, the Catholic Bishop of Auckland Patrick Dunn, initiated a consultation on the college's future.
Hato Petera College in Northcote, Auckland. The school faces closure after proprietor, the Catholic Bishop of Auckland Patrick Dunn, initiated a consultation on the college's future.

Auckland's last Maori boarding school faces closure after its proprietor announced a consultation process into its future.

Hato Petera's past pupils include the late artist Ralph Hotere, ONZ, All Black Walter Little and the late Dr Ranginui Walker, academic and writer.

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, said the consultation process would include possible closure of the school.

It had been launched with the approval of the Ministry of Education, he said.

Any decision on that would be made in time for families to plan for 2017, Dunn said, and the school would stay open for the rest of the year.

The Northcote school is one of only five Maori boarding schools in the country.

Dunn cited concerns including the tiny roll and the impact of that on the curriculum that can be offered, school finances, breaches of an integration agreement.

There had also been a breakdown in relationship between the board of trustees and Hato Petera Ltd, Dunn said.

"I know this will cause some uncertainty for families with sons and daughters attending Hato Petera.

"I also recognise that Hato Petera College has a proud history...however, on balance, I believe the time is right to make informed decisions on the future of the school."

The tiny Northcote school last year closed its junior boarding facility, saying it could no longer provide a supportive environment.

At the time, Whanau Trust Board chair Lance O'Sullivan said the closure was temporary, and a comprehensive review of the boarding facility was ongoing, working to address financial issues and the school's current hostel model.

The Herald has previously reported about issues at the school, including the roll falling below 100, dilapidated buildings, bullying, infighting and a lack of confidence from its owner, the Catholic Church.

There are also concerns from some in the school community that the church wants to sell off the valuable school land, and a Waitangi land claim complicating relationships in the school community.

Two other Auckland Maori boarding schools, St Stephen's and Queen Victoria, were closed in the early 2000s.

Last year Education Minister Hekia Parata signed-off on the closure of Turakina Maori Girls' College in Marton due to financial difficulties and a falling roll.

- NZ Herald

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