Students at Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa are celebrating after trading in a tired, leaky and mouldy gym for a $2.7 million rebuild.

The new gym was opened by an emotional principal John Paitai yesterday, who said the rebuild had been a ''long road with many a winding turn''.

The college now had a gym it could be proud of and which, at 825sq m, was bigger than the school was entitled to given its roll. That was because the Education Ministry had decided to rebuild the gym using the original concrete pad and steel framing instead of demolishing it and starting from scratch.

Bay of Islands College principal John Paitai said the rebuild of the school gym had been
Bay of Islands College principal John Paitai said the rebuild of the school gym had been "a long road with many a winding turn" but it now had a facility to be proud of. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The rebuild had come up against ''numerous gnarly issues'' and had seen three board of trustee chairs and four project managers come and go, Paitai said.

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He paid tribute to the final project manager, who stuck it out to the end; Education Ministry property manager Brent Stephens, who ''went in to bat for the college''; Head of PE Ruth Hills, who meticulously oversaw the design; and the Arco group for building it.

Also at the opening was former pupil and now MP Willow-Jean Prime, who had ''awesome memories'' of playing basketball in the old gym.

She confided she had met her boyfriend, now her husband and college teacher Dion Prime, there.

''But that's not what the whare's for,'' she cautioned.

First to use the gym after Friday's blessing were the students of room 10T.

Sarah Hati, 15, said the old gym used to drip from the ceiling, and when it was being rebuilt in winter they had nowhere to play sports.

Te Arangamai Mareikura-Edmonds, 15, said it had lots of space compared to the old gym, while Samari McCall, 14, said it was ''very awesome''.

''There's heaps of room to do activities and run around,'' she said.

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The new gym can be used for one full-size or two small basketball courts, a netball court, four badminton courts and two volleyball courts. It also has a mezzanine for spectators.

Hills said the college went a long time without a gym, forcing teachers to be inventive in winter.

''But the students never moaned ... Now they're just so happy they don't have to worry whether they will have PE if it's raining, and I'm happy because they're happy.''

The gym was originally part of a community recreation centre built and managed by the ASB Recreation Centre Trust. Opened in 1991 it had a heated pool, weights room, squash court, aerobics room and a gym.

However, when the trust folded the college was left footing the bill for the whole facility.

The gym and pool weren't owned by the Education Ministry so the college couldn't get funding and they fell into disrepair.

A 2013 council-commissioned report which recommended closing Kawakawa pool and building a new one in Kerikeri instead galvanised the community.

Volunteers upgraded the pool, which is now operated by Sport Northland, and in 2014 the Ministry agreed to take the gym back under its jurisdiction.

The rebuild started in October 2017.