A total of $13 million has been approved to start building a new primary school in the Pāpāmoa area where more than 4400 children already go to school.
Te Okuroa Dr School's new principal Shane Cunliffe says it is a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to be able to build a brand new school from the ground up.
In total, $21 million has been set aside for the new primary school and Tauranga City Council's building report shows $13m of work has been approved for the build to begin.
There are already seven schools in Pāpāmoa.
The new school is expected to open in 2022 and accommodate 650 Years 1 to 6 pupils.
The first stage of the build will include three teaching blocks and an administration/hall block at 72 Okuroa Dr, as well as external landscaping and outside sports facilities and car parking.
Its neighbouring Suzanne Aubert Catholic School at 4 Kamahi Crescent has also received approval to construct new single-level classroom buildings, exterior canopies, and associated services, work worth nearly $2m.
Ministry of Education's head of education infrastructure service, Kim Shannon, said site works and foundations for the new school at Te Okuroa Dr were under way, with the concrete hall slab poured last week.
"Southbase Construction is delivering this Ministry-led project that will see the construction of a school able to accommodate up to 650 students," she said.
"The school has been designed in close collaboration with the Establishment Board of Trustees, and with input from local Iwi."
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Shannon said previous public announcements made in 2017 stated a budget of $21m was set aside for the new school.
As of March 2020, there are seven schools in Pāpāmoa with a combined total roll of 4435.
Te Puke Primary School's Shane Cunliffe will be the school's new principal and will start full-time in term one next year.
Cunliffe said it was a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to be able to build a school from the ground up.
"It is a bucket list for someone who is passionate about education and more so to be able to have no barriers in terms of responding in a future-focused way."
Growing up in Pāpāmoa, Cunliffe said becoming the principal of a brand new school was an easy decision to make.
"It felt right," he said.
"For me, it is about going back to my mana whenua and having the opportunity to create something for our community that is world-class and a real opportunity to build a blueprint that responds and a culture that is interlinked.
"It is so exciting."
With the school opening at the start on 2022, Cunliffe can be fully involved in the next key stages of setting up the school.
This will include recruitment of the senior leadership team and staff, undertaking community consultation on the school's vision and values, confirmation of a final school name, and development of the school's curriculum, procedures and systems.
"It will be trying to consult, work and collaborate with a community that doesn't exist as yet.
"I will be working with the establishment board and the iwi connecting with the other kura and ECEs in the area and really getting a sense of what the community want until we have an established community.
"At the end of the day, we are trying to create a hub for the community out there."
Board chairwoman Rebecca Keating said the board was "incredibly lucky" to have received the large number of high-quality applicants they did for the position.
"We had the opportunity to select from a high-calibre field," she said.
"Shane stood out for his child-focused and community-responsive approach to school leadership.
"We believe he will help ensure this school delivers world-class schooling for its community into the future."
Like a homecoming
Becoming principal of Pāpāmoa's newest primary school will be "like a homecoming" for Shane Cunliffe.
The Te Puke Primary School principal grew up in Pāpāmoa where he went to primary school. He later attended Tauranga Boys' College.
Straight after school, Cunliffe flew to the United Kingdom to play professional and semi-professional football before returning to Tauranga to train as a teacher.
"I moved around the country playing national league football and teaching at the same time."
After another stint in the UK - where he met his wife, the couple moved back to New Zealand in 2008 and settled in Pāpāmoa.
Cunliffe landed a job at Tauranga Boys' College running the junior health and physical education department but he "quickly realised I needed to really have the biggest impact that I could have".
In 2009, he began teaching at Tauranga Intermediate before becoming principal of Te Puke Primary in 2012, taking a year off in 2017 to finish his masters in educational leadership.
Cunliffe said it was "bittersweet" having to say goodbye to Te Puke Primary.
"There has been a significant change here from a traditional single-cell school to a school now that is 130-years-old and we've turned it into a collaborative co-teaching future-focused school.
"The school has doubled in size and we have got about $2m worth of development about to open in a week's time, about 10 teaching spaces that we are about to move into."