Tensions at Auckland's troubled Maori boarding school have spilled over, with the principal suspended and three managers handing in their resignations.

Principal at Northcote's Hato Petera College, John Matthews, was suspended from his role as chief executive of the school's hostel, Radio New Zealand reported. He remains principal of the 100-pupil school.

Hostel trustee Rudy Taylor confirmed the suspension, and said three managers had quit their positions at the hostel as a result. One of those was the school's operations manager Shanan Halbert.

The school has separate boards to run the school and the hostel, but until now management positions have been largely shared.


The resignations were reportedly over a lack of progress at the hostel- some trustees want to renew the hostel's dilapidated buildings but the project is yet to go ahead.

Mr Taylor said there were too many personalities involved. "There is not a day without argument," he said.

Part of the issue was the involvement of the Catholic Church, who owns the land and is responsible for the upkeep of the buildings, and the fact it had only offered the school a five-year lease.

The Bishop has several representatives on the boards, including Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan, who last month attempted to oust the hostel board chair due to safety concerns.

He was unsuccessful, however, and Tame Te Rangi remains chair. Contacted for comment, Mr Te Rangi said he was not interested as he thought the Herald had not reported the issues fairly. "Stuff you and stuff your paper," he said.

At the time, Dr O'Sullivan said a boy had been allegedly assaulted at the hostel and it was not investigated properly. The school and the ministry said it had been dealt with, however. The result of a police complaint is yet unknown.

The story so far

The Herald first reported in April about issues at the school, including the roll falling below 100, dilapidated buildings, bullying, infighting and a lack of confidence from its owner, the Catholic Church.

Two other incidents in the last 12 months - including one where a child had been hit with a stick - had also been referred to police.


At that time, the Herald asked the school for copies of incident reports. It refused, instead calling a meeting where three lawyers were present.

Hato Petera, whose former pupils include All Black Walter Little and the late artist Ralph Hotere, is the sole remaining Maori boarding school in Auckland and one of only six in the country.

Two other such schools, St Stephen's and Queen Victoria, were closed in the early 2000s.
There have been ongoing issues at the school between the board, the school, the ministry of education and the church in terms of who will pay for the upkeep of the hostel buildings.

Many at the school believe the church wants to shut the school and sell the land at a large profit.

A treaty of Waitangi claim made against the church and Crown by members of the wider school community have led to further tension.