As the misty dawn opened over Pāpāmoa this morning, MPs, local education leaders and members of Nga Pōtiki gathered to turn the sod and embrace the site for Pāpāmoa's newest primary school.

Te Okuroa Drive School, which will be Pāpāmoa's fifth primary school, is set to open at the beginning of 2022 with an initial roll of 600 year 1 to 6 students.

The red marker indicates where the new school will be built on Te Okuroa Dr. Screenshot / Google Maps
The red marker indicates where the new school will be built on Te Okuroa Dr. Screenshot / Google Maps

Chairwoman of the school's establishment board Rebecca Keating said she was "glad the journey of providing the Pāpāmoa community with this new school was progressing".

While the sod has now been turned and the build can get under way, the board had yet to appoint a principal for the new school, she said.

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"The board intends to appoint a principal as early as possible," Keating said, so the new principal could be involved with ongoing design.

They "will also lead engagement with the community", including providing parents with the opportunity to input to the development of the school's vision and values, she said.

Te Okuroa Drive School establishment board chairwoman Rebecca Keating. Photo / Esme O'Rafferty
Te Okuroa Drive School establishment board chairwoman Rebecca Keating. Photo / Esme O'Rafferty

"Schooling is one of the most important considerations families have for their children," she said.

"We know there will be a lot of community interest in this school ... Papamoa is growing incredibly fast and this is putting pressure on other schools."

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said the new school would have a "very positive" impact on the community.

"It's a community that's growing immensely ... one of my focuses is to see that as the community grows, the amenities grow with them," he said.

"Obviously schools are a huge part of that."

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller (centre) with Rebecca Keating (left) and Labour list MP Angie Warren-Clark. Photo / Esme O'Rafferty
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller (centre) with Rebecca Keating (left) and Labour list MP Angie Warren-Clark. Photo / Esme O'Rafferty

Muller pointed out the success of Golden Sands School, which opened in 2011.

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"It was only a few years ago it was opened, it seems, but now it's got over 600 students ... the demand is here," he said.

With young families moving to the area, Muller said the new school would be a "jewel" to the local community, especially with the school's connection to Nga Pōtiki.

He said despite the "challenge" of limited resources, Pāpāmoa was doing well.

"The conversations I tend to have down in Wellington, with the officials down there, they always seem to assume that Tauranga is the city it was last decade as opposed to the one that we're becoming," he said.

He said the problem with the population boom was that they couldn't predict how schools would cope with their current roll sizes.

"You try and have an assessment of where you think the school population's likely to be and have the capacity to grow as the population grows ... Tauranga's rising 3500-4000 people a year, and most of them are here in Pāpāmoa."

This meant that the school footprint was as big as it could be under the current circumstances, he said.

Challenges and opportunities lay ahead for the Pāpāmoa East community, said Pāpāmoa College principal Steve Lindsey.

"I think it's great ... it's certainly needed," he said.

"We need to provide good-quality education for people in Pāpāmoa ... some of these students will come through to Pāpāmoa College, so I look forward to seeing them when they get to year 7."

He said Pāpāmoa College was currently going through an expansion programme, to cater for its own roll growth.

They would be prepared for when the new students moved from Te Okuroa to the college, he said.

"We're developing and becoming a larger school ... it's indicative of the whole region really, everything's growing."