On the day of the Budget the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, made a public announcement that the new kura for Hastings would be located in Havelock North. The announcement came in spite of numerous questions being asked over the previous fortnight and our local Member of Parliament Craig Foss stating he had been caught off the hop.
I have spent some time doing some background research and before I start I need to emphasise that Kura Kaupapa Takitimu is certainly deserving of a brand new facility after operating successfully out of a makeshift site in Albert Street, Hastings.
A little bit of history - 30-plus years ago the Ministry of Education had an option on land on Napier Road - the location of the new BMX Park. It was identified as a possible location for a total immersion school for Havelock North. The need was not there so they lifted their option. Back in 1994 when Anderson Park school closed they considered that site as another suitable venue but the need wasn't there.
The major new residential development in Havelock North has in the main been out on the Arataki side. This has meant that huge pressure has been placed on Te Mata School. In 1972, Te Mata was a country school of six classrooms and a schoolhouse. The grounds are not much bigger now and the roll is more than 600. When development started some 20 years ago a local orchardist who was on the boundary of Te Mata approached the Ministry of Education and gave them first offer because it also meant they would have another entranceway. The MOE were not interested and we still have that bottleneck where Te Mata and Havelock North Intermediate share the same very narrow street entranceway.
In 2010 the Ministry of Education purchased the Arataki Motor Camp, presented their case and showed the demand for a new primary school (350 growing to 500 pupils) and was given resource consent to build a new primary school and a day care facility on that site.
To date nothing has happened as far as a new school is concerned but that area since 2010 has had more than 200 new houses built with more to come.
Te Mata School has had its enrolment zone so severely restricted that primary school children who live close to the Arataki side of Russell Robinson Dr are now considered to be out of zone and need to be driven to Havelock North Primary School, up to 2km away from their closest school Te Mata, or to another alternative - some actually go out to Clive. The residents who built these new houses did so with the knowledge that consent had been given for a new primary school in the area.
My questions of the Minister of Education are:
Where is the new state primary school now going to be located and what will be the cost of purchasing another new site?
Will this government override the Hastings District Council's resource consent provisions for this site and just blatantly carry on - as they tend to do?
In the late 1990s Kura Kaupapa o Heretaunga was opened in Stock Rd and it caters for pupils from Yr 1-13.
This kura has a current roll of 115 and has space for considerably more students.
Kura Kaupapa o Paki Paki Yr 1-8 has a current roll of 49 pupils and again has space for considerably more pupils.
That brings me to the other kura for Hastings children, Kura Kaupapa o Takitimu. It has a roll of 59 pupils who live in Hastings and they need a new facility, no questions about that.
It is this kura that Minister Parata wants to relocate to the 2ha-plus Arataki Motor Camp site. The current Te Mata School site for 600 pupils is smaller than that.
Thinking outside the square, has any consideration been given to using the Arataki site for a new modern facility to cater for the needs of the children who actually live in the local community, and relocating the current Te Mata pupils on to that site?
There is more than enough area to accommodate all of the locals in a new build.
Getting back to the recent announcement, the local Member of Parliament didn't know, the local ministry was caught unaware, none of the local schools were informed, the local residents found out in the newspaper, a needs analysis was not carried out and the only question that I do not know the answer to is: Did the minister actually ask the Kura Kaupapa o Takitimu where they wanted to be located?
The minister is prepared to build a school on this Ministry of Education-owned site but not for the locals who actually live there. If commonsense was allowed to prevail both would get a new school in their local communities.
It is important for all concerned that the correct decisions for the future are made. Not decisions made through pure political arrogance and agendas.
I have real fear that it is already a done deal.
-Malcolm Dixon is a retired primary school principal and a current Hastings district councillor.
-Business and civic leaders, organisers, experts in their field and interest groups can contribute opinions. The views expressed here are the writer's personal opinion, and not the newspaper's. Email: email@example.com.