Eighteen Pompallier College students had an uncomfortable but safe trip in a chartered boat from Great Barrier Island to Sandspit during Friday's bad weather, the school's principal Richard Stanton said.

The college has been both criticised and praised for making the call to get the Year 11 physical education students and two teachers back to the mainland on the scheduled day rather than sit out the forecast next two stormy days.

Several students were seasick during the rough, four hour crossing but recovered quickly once they landed at Sandspit, near Warkworth, Mr Stanton said. He described the trip as "without incident".

The group was returning from a camp at Great Barrier Island Outdoor Pursuits Centre.


Mr Stanton said the school's decision to keep to the scheduled return on Friday, on the same chartered fishing vessel that took the group there, was made after lengthy consultation with Maritime New Zealand, Police, the Outdoor Pursuits Centre and the skipper.

However, the return destination of Marsden Cove was changed to Sandspit because it would be an easier passage in view of the storm's direction, putting the waves and wind at the stern of the boat.

"Consideration was given to delaying the departure by one day but the forecasted change in wind and sea conditions would have made the return passage even more difficult," Mr Stanton said.

"The trip wasn't a comfortable one but the wind was not particularly gusty and nowhere near the forecasted 30 to 40 knots winds.

"We were quite comfortable in making the call as the forecast was that the tide and wind would swing north the next day.

"There was a gale warning issued for that day [Saturday] and a storm warning for Sunday but there was no warning on Friday, only an advisory."

The parents of two students refused to let their children make the trip, one family because they considered the trip too risky and the other because their daughter was prone to seasickness.

It is understood the two students flew home on a regular air flight.

Mr Stanton said negative reports in the news and on social media about the trip going ahead even though passenger ferry services had been cancelled were misleading and "not valid".

Those services went to Auckland, a route that was severely affected by the conditions on the day.

The majority of parents were happy with the level of communication from the school during three hours of consultation over whether Friday's trip should go ahead, Mr Stanton said.

That included two emails to all parents and one phone call.

He cited emails since received from parents thanking the school for changing the destination to Sandspit and bringing about the best outcome.