A new charter school planned by Labour candidate Willie Jackson's Manukau Urban Māori Authority (Muma) has upset an established Māori school in Manurewa.
Te Wharekura o Manurewa, one of only 23 Māori-language high schools in the country, says it was not consulted before Muma announced plans last week to open a new bilingual high school for 145 students on the wharekura's current site at Manurewa Marae in 2019.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye gave $24 million in June to relocate the wharekura and its associated primary school Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Manurewa to a new campus in Browns Rd.
Both existing kura have struggled for support ever since they opened in 1993 (primary) and 2002 (secondary). The primary school still has only 70 students and the wharekura has 29.
Muma already runs a charter primary school at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Māngere, and Education Under-Secretary David Seymour said the two schools would "complement" each other.
But Seymour did not disclose that the high school would have to be 10km away in Manurewa because the Mangere site is earmarked for housing. Muma general manager operations Wyn Osborne said the high school would be at Manurewa Marae, with buses for students from Māngere.
"Currently we run a bus from Manurewa for our primary school students," he said.
"We will put a bus on from Māngere to Manurewa. They will cross over - we'll have local whānau that have gone to our primary school and move on to the high school bus to Manurewa, and we will continue with our bus from Manurewa to Māngere."
Nathan said that neither Muma nor Rangi McLean, a Manurewa Marae trustee who is also a director of Muma's education subsidiary, had approached the wharekura about their plans.
"We are probably the last people they want to talk to given that there is a potential for us to be in direct competition," he said.
"I don't think it's sustainable to have two wharekura in Manurewa."
Manurewa Marae manager Lorraine Byers said Muma approached her about locating the new high school at the marae, but it had not yet been approved by the marae trustees.
"It's just an idea at this stage," she said. "I have informed Muma that they need to put a proposal together."
Osborne said the high school would offer a new option for Manurewa's 19,131 Māori - the biggest Māori population in Auckland and sixth-biggest in the country after Hamilton, Christchurch, Rotorua, the Far North and Gisborne.
He pointed to poor results in the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) in other local schools.
"Look at NCEA results in the Manurewa area to see that Māori are not being well served by what's available," he said.
Only 42 per cent of Māori school-leavers from at James Cook High, 54 per cent from Manurewa High and 65 per cent from Alfriston College left with at least NCEA Level 2 last year, compared with a national Māori average of 66.5 per cent.
Five out of the six school-leavers from Te Wharekura o Manurewa (83 per cent) achieved NCEA Level 2.
Osborne said the new high school was "not a competitive offer".
"We consider this to be almost a lifeline to those sections of the community that, for whatever reason, are not succeeding with what's available," he said.
The Ministry of Education's head of early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry had approved the new high school to be located in Manurewa.
"The sponsor, Te Whare Wānanga o Muma, is responsible for securing a site in Manurewa," she said.
Jackson, who is still Muma's chief executive, stood down from chairing its education arm Te Whare Wānanga o MUMA Ltd after he became a Labour election list candidate in February.
The company's board is now chaired by Radio Waatea general manager Bernie O'Donnell and includes Osborne, McLean, Māngere Bridge School principal Stephanie Tawha, Sylvia Park School principal and Education Council chairwoman Barbara Ala'alatoa, and Dr Nathan Matthews, the founding principal of two charter schools in Whangarei who is now a professor at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi.