The principal of Tauranga's Otumoetai College has described the Government's $47 million investment to fix the school's leaking buildings as an "unbelievable gift".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, accompanied by Education Minister Chris Hipkins and several local MPs, made the announcement yesterday during a visit to the school.

The redevelopment will replace 57 teaching spaces, the library, and provide a new entrance for the college.

Ardern told the 600-odd students and teachers in the auditorium that having great teachers was probably her "number one ingredient" when it came to getting a quality education, but warm, weathertight buildings were also important.


"It is one thing to say that we could do a better job of making your learning environments more modern, but actually at its most basic, your buildings shouldn't leak.

"They should be weathertight. They shouldn't make you sick, they shouldn't make you cold. We shouldn't ask our teachers to teach in an environment like that either," she said.

"I'm here to say we want to invest in your education and that also means investing in your buildings. That's why we are announcing today we will be investing $47m in the rebuild of Otumoetai College."

Stunned students, teachers and principal Russell Gordon erupted with delight, their applause and cheers rocking the auditorium.

Immediately after, Gordon told the Bay of Plenty Times he was still having to get his head around the announcement.

"I still can't believe it, $47m is a huge amount of money. This is an unbelievably generous gift and I'm utterly humbled and grateful to the Government for its generosity.

"This extra funding will make a huge difference to our students, teachers and the whole school community."

He acknowledged former principal Dave Randell for his hard work over the years and thanked the Ministry of Education's Hayley Parkes for all her hard work in Wellington on the school's behalf.


Part of the warm welcome Ardern received at the school yesterday, which included group performances and speeches by students Ashton Blair and Mia Gardiner, was an invitation for her daughter Neve to join the school in 2030.

Otumoetai College's parting gift for the Prime Minister was not only a student enrolment form but a baby-sized uniform.

The funding is part of a major investment to replace crumbling classrooms, and provide new modern learning spaces for students in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Hawke's Bay.

Around $73m is to be invested in two major redevelopments and 39 new roll growth classrooms at 15 schools in the three regions.

The Government will spend $6m redeveloping a three-storey block with significant weathertightness defects at Tauranga Girls' College.

A further $5.5m will be spent on 11 teaching spaces in Bay of Plenty schools, including three teaching spaces at Tauranga Boys' College and four teaching spaces at Oropi School.

Hipkins said the Ministry of Education would work with the boards at each school to get planning under way on the projects as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Ardern also made two other stops during what was her first official visit to Tauranga as Prime Minister.

She took questions at Ko Māui Hangarau, a Māori youth tech and innovation event at Baycourt, part of this week's Groundswell Festival of Innovation.

As well as many questions about her baby daughter – whether she had brought Neve with to Tauranga, whether she liked being a mum – there were several about politics, the challenges and highlights of her job, her teenage years, and kapa haka.

One person asked her what she would like to see in 10 years' time in regard to technology.

Ardern said she wanted to see no divide when it came to accessing technology, "because that's not who Aotearoa is, we like everyone to have the same chances".

The Prime Minister also opened the 2018 New Zealand Avocado International Industry Conference at ASB Baypark yesterday, addressing a hall full of local, national and international business people and industry leaders.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opening the 2018 New Zealand Avocado International Industry Conference in Tauranga. Photo / George Novak
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opening the 2018 New Zealand Avocado International Industry Conference in Tauranga. Photo / George Novak

At one point she shared a local and personal avocado link – her grandparents' orchard on the hills of Welcome Bay.

"I loved that orchard. I loved the size of the mature trees and the shade that they created on warm days. I loved walking through them with my grandmother picking avocados from the ground for lunch," Ardern told the crowd.

"But I also knew that it was hard work – for them, and for those who continue on in that field and are taking what is, for me, a nostalgic product to the world."