Some Tauranga principals are cautioning against the zoning schemes under a new system that will replace the 30-year-old self-governing schools regime.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that a new "Education Service Agency" will take over school zoning in each region, and will take the lead role in planning new and improved school buildings.
School zones would be drawn upon a regional basis in an attempt to achieve more equal outcomes for all students and to stop schools "creaming off" the best students to compete against one another.
"In light of these issues, the Government proposes the ESA [Education Service Agency] would assume, at a regional level, responsibility for developing a new enrolment scheme, or modifying an existing scheme, and consulting with relevant stakeholders," Hipkins said.
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said the move showed a continued slip away from Tomorrow's Schools, toward a more bureaucratic model.
"It's just another example of the erosion into Tomorrow's Schools."
She said the roles of the school Board of Trustees were being taken away, which was a disservice to the school and the school communities.
Mackintosh said although the ESA would be based regionally, it was important that school governance roles were people in the school community.
"Even if they're local, it pays to have Johnny on the spot, and you do have that in your boards. They know the school community and they're from the school community," she said.
She was concerned school sizes would be used as a reason to change zones instead of reasoning with people who knew the school.
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon said the change to zoning could go two ways and that would depend on the reasons which would drive the zone shifts.
He said he would be concerned if zones changed to manage infrastructure, finances and school sizes.
"The student always has to be at the heart of the decision," he said, and supported that the move was to genuinely look after schools and regions.
Gordon was a firm a believer that children should go to their local schools.
Otumoetai Primary School Zara McIndoe said the school relayed with the Ministry of Education about zoning approvals and did not anticipate a significant change.
She said and ESA "definitely makes more sense".
"If it's someone that's in the area making decisions for us ... that's sensible."
Minister Hipkins said the current system allowed schools to "manipulate the zone based on areas they may wish to take students from; for example, including high socio-economic neighbourhoods while excluding closer, yet more disadvantaged, neighbourhoods".
ESA will have "a strong local presence" but will be "part of a redesigned Ministry of Education, which will provide central expertise and services, including new curriculum and leadership services".
It will take a stronger role in planning school buildings in line with the new regional zoning plans, but a policy document released with Hipkins' announcement indicates that the Government will move cautiously.
-Additional reporting: Simon Collins