Taradale High School students farewelled their long-serving principal, Stephen Hensman, at an emotional final assembly and with a powerful haka on Friday.

Hensman leaves the school after 13 years to become an independent educational consultant and will be replaced by David Oliver, currently deputy principal of Pakuranga College in Auckland.

Hensman said he would miss "this large, rambling family of a school – it is special to me beyond words".

He said duty of care to students, staff and to learning were vital for a principal to stay in the job, and he felt himself wanting to slow down.

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"I can't keep going at the pace required to do justice to the job of serving the needs of our students, so I'm getting out before I slow down, in full expectation that Mr David Oliver will be able to give it his best in a way that I can't continue to do so. I never wanted to hold an important job like this and underplay it."

"It's been a team effort here for the last 13 years. Collaboration has dominated in my time here. Good people working together, caring for one another, and working together for the good of students."

He thanked staff, parents and students for their support over the years and paid special tribute to the chairs and members of the Board of Trustees during his time as principal.

He also urged the school community to welcome the new principal with an open mind and warm hearts.

"Mr Oliver will be different to me, will do things differently. He will be able to see with fresh eyes what needs to change and develop here. Please support him."

His plans for the future include a trip to visit his father in Oregon, in the United States, and other relatives in Vancouver, Canada. Some fishing is on the agenda, as is catching up with family and friends.

"From mid-June, I will be working part-time for Interlead, supporting secondary principals, and at the same time I will carry out educational consultancy. Whatever I'm doing, I hope to be making a difference for schools and to young people," Mr Hensman says.

While he was looking forward to the future, he was still sad to leave his beloved school.

"The predominant emotion for me over the last months has been a deep sorrow. I would love to have kept leading the staff and students on the road we've been travelling in recent years."