Northcote's defunct Hato Petera College may become a hostel for Māori students attending other schools or be used by another school, the Catholic Church says.

The 90-year-old school, which claimed to be "the only Māori Catholic co-educational secondary school in the world", has closed today after Education Minister Chris Hipkins cancelled its funding agreement with the state.

Auckland Catholic Bishop Patrick Dunn said the Church was "exploring and considering all education options for the use of the site".

"Some possibilities include discussions with the Ministry of Education regarding the use of the college facilities by another school and with Hato Petera old boy Dr Lance O'Sullivan, chair of the Moko Foundation, about the possibility of establishing a 'Hato Petera hostel/academy' that could support a new model of education at the current site," he said.

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O'Sullivan suggested last week that the school should become a boarding facility only, with students attending nearby schools on the model of Auckland Grammar School's InZone hostel.

"I'm fiercely proud of Hato Petera's contribution to my life and who I am, and in a spirit of gratitude I'm very keen to be a part of the future for Hato Petera," he said.

"To be frank, I think that does include the fact that the school will close as we know it. I believe that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's an opportunity to have a blank canvas to start again. That start again has to be different."

Dunn said the need for Māori boarding schools had changed. Auckland's other two Māori boarding schools, Anglican boys' school St Stephen's and girls' school Queen Victoria, closed about 15 years ago, although their joint board hopes to reopen a Māori school soon.

"Significantly fewer Māori are choosing to send their rangatahi to Māori boarding schools for their secondary education," Dunn said.

"The our remaining Māori boarding schools in Aotearoa all have very small school rolls and the total roll across all four schools is 531, the size of a small secondary school.

"As at July 2018 there were 1065 Māori students attending 15 Catholic secondary schools in the diocese."

He said Hato Petera had a proud history but was no longer "the secondary school of choice for Catholic Māori within the Catholic Diocese of Auckland."

"Past students have chosen not to send their children and grandchildren to Hato Petera College," he said.

"This year the roll has fluctuated between one and five students, but there have been no students at the college in Term 3. The Church's concern over the past few years has been that students at Hato Petera College have not been receiving the education they need or deserve."

The college was established in 1928 on land granted to the Church by Governor George Grey for the education of Māori and European children.

For the first 18 years the school was used to train boys as catechists to assist Mill Hill priests in the Māori mission.

It became a general secondary school for Māori boys in 1946 and admitted girls from 1993.

Its funding agreement with the state set a maximum roll of 250, but the roll plunged after the Ministry of Education closed the college's hostel for health and safety reasons in 2016 and by early this year there was only one student left, Stephanie Pomare.

Stephanie has now moved to Manurewa High School, saying: "I could have stayed, but there wasn't really much I could do."

Lex Hamill, who was appointed as a commissioner to replace the school board this year, said there were now no students enrolled there.

A group representing two original Māori families who lived in the Northcote area has been occupying Hato Petera College for the past few weeks. Photo / File
A group representing two original Māori families who lived in the Northcote area has been occupying Hato Petera College for the past few weeks. Photo / File

Hipkins said the college was "no longer able to provide a quality of education".

"Closing schools is never an easy decision," he said.

"But the roll has fluctuated between one and five this year, down from around 20 last year and just under 50 in 2016, and there are limited opportunities for the students to have social interaction with peers. The classroom environment is lonely despite the best intentions of the staff.

"A further round of consultation has been undertaken by the commissioner since my interim decision at the beginning of June that the school's integration agreement should be cancelled.

"The results of this consultation have confirmed my interim view. The Hato Petera College that exists today is much diminished from the school it was in the past.

"Today's announcement, while sad for those involved, will end a period of uncertainty for students and staff. The Ministry of Education and the Proprietor will provide assistance as needed to help the remaining students enrol at other schools. The Ministry and PPTA will also work with current staff."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins visited Hato Petera College last week before deciding today to cancel its funding agreement with the state. Photo / File
Education Minister Chris Hipkins visited Hato Petera College last week before deciding today to cancel its funding agreement with the state. Photo / File

Hipkins said the church had told him it would continue to use the site for educational purposes.

"It is now for them to discuss the next steps with the Ministry of Education," he said.

The church initially received 43 submissions from whānau, past students, and staff.

Hipkins said the submissions "tended to focus on the college's history and the pride of former pupils, but not on solutions to the issues the school has been facing in recent times".

The Ministry of Education consulted 18 schools and 17 sector groups.