Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Charter-school trust spent Govt money on farmland, MP reveals

Tracey Martin. Photo / NZ Herald
Tracey Martin. Photo / NZ Herald

Education Minister Hekia Parata has requested a full briefing from her officials after revelations in Parliament that a trust in Northland spent Government money buying 81ha of farmland for a charter school it will be opening next year.

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin said the Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust had put prefabs and portaloos in a paddock. The MP asked Ms Parata if she considered it to be a modern learning environment.

Last night, Ms Parata confirmed there were temporary facilities there but said they were for the workers developing the site and the school.

The school's curriculum director, Natasha Sadler, confirmed the trust had spent $625,000 buying the farmland. The money came out of the $1.6 million implementation and establishment fee the school received from the Ministry of Education. The trust was doing nothing that had not been agreed with the ministry.

A claim that the trust had run out of money to build the school was wrong.

Ms Sadler said students would be involved in environmental learning, building greenhouses and growing plants.

She said it was ridiculous for NZ First to suggest a school with 70 pupils and five staff would open with portaloos. A toilet block was being built and would be ready by opening time on February 10.

Teaching space would be in a temporary building for the first two months and buildings would be finished by April 10.

Tracey Martin asked Ms Parata to clarify what would happen to the land if the charter school closed.

Ms Parata said: "We can confirm that, as is the case with any school, if the school closes or in this case if the contract with the sponsor is terminated, then payment to the sponsor may be recovered through usual commercial processes."

The trust was one of five successful applicants named in September to run the first charter schools to be opened in February.

It plans to set up a bilingual secondary school known as Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru at Whangaruru, targeting Maori and Pacific students.

It will have an initial roll of 71 students, rising to 128 by 2015.

Ms Sadler is a trained secondary school teacher, and has been a national assessment facilitator at the NZ Qualifications Authority, a deputy and acting principal at an area school and a senior adviser at the ministry.

- NZ Herald

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