They gave a rip-roaring haka and welcome when Education Minister Hekia Parata visited Kamo Intermediate School to tell the pupils they were getting a new $1.7million classroom block.

Work will begin this year on four learning spaces to help accommodate the Whangarei school's projected roll growth, currently at 680 but expected to increase by 100 in the next year.

The expansion should be finished next June and is part of a $50m investment to upgrade schools in Northland.

Ms Parata was accompanied at yesterday's announcement by Whangarei MP Shane Reti and Ministry of Education representative Sandra Orr.


With the school's motto, Be the Best You Can Be, emblazoned on the wall in front of her, Ms Parata congratulated board members and staff "for forming a very good, high-achieving, well-rounded school".

The school's achievement in science fairs, maths contests and other inter-school projects, and its former pupils' academic and sports successes, was "outstanding", she said.

Ms Parata had the audience laughing as she put on her bright yellow-framed glasses to read from notes.

"'Do you like my Prada glasses?" she asked, then added, "Not really, they're from the $2 shop in Gisborne."

An invitation for pupils' questions regarding the $1.7m new block resulted in several about the building details, furniture and fittings, and whether the funding would cover digital learning equipment.

Ms Parata said that while the Government was prioritising digital technology in schools "there's only so much money for that"; this money was for a building. As for furniture, the school could make those decisions itself, she said.

Ms Parata told the pupils that while physical spaces like classrooms made a difference to education "the best and biggest space for learning is between your ears".

"A building itself doesn't make us learn but our discussions, our reading and research, that is learning."

Her advice to the pupils: "Get a good education because that opens up the world to you."

Ms Parata apologised to the board and trustees and staff, for "being flippant".

"I know it's been challenging and you've been waiting a long time for these things you need."

Board chairman Don Robertson thanked the minister for the $1.7m funding to ensure the school could cope with its imminent roll growth.

He said the school had lobbied long and hard for the money.

Government's $50m investment includes:

- $6.9 million for the redevelopment of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Taumarere.

- $19 million to provide a new site and buildings for TKKM o Te Tonga o Hokianga and a total of 16 new classrooms at Whangarei Girls High School, Parua Bay School and Bay of Islands International Academy.

- $14 million for the redevelopment of Northland College.

- $6 million to increase capacity at Hora Hora School.