The fate of one of the country's last Maori boarding schools has not been decided - but taxpayers will not stump up money to repair its dilapidated buildings.
Old girls of Turakina Maori Girls' College in Marton sheltered from the rain and wiped away tears yesterday as a rousing haka was performed outside Parliament. About 150 people braved steady rain to protest the potential closure of the school, which has been open for 110 years.
The delegation presented a petition to Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox, who told them it would take a collective effort to keep the kura open.
Students performed a waiata, and, after being joined by old girls and a handful of primary school pupils, performed a spine-tingling ka panapana.
Education Minister Hekia Parata last month began talks over the future of the school. Financial and governance issues, as well as a declining roll, had provided a situation that was "potentially detrimental" to the students' education. A Ministry of Education report recommending the consultation was signed off by Ms Parata with the handwritten note, "this is extremely sad, but after several years of decline there does not seem to be an avenue that has not been explored".
The state-integrated Presbyterian school's roll has fallen from 152 in 2003 to about 54 this year. A limited statutory manager has been in place since 2012.
Yesterday, Ms Parata said that no final decision had been made, but ruled out taxpayers paying to upgrade the school's buildings.
"If parents aren't choosing to send their daughters and granddaughters to this school it makes it difficult to be viable."
There are just six remaining Maori boarding schools - Hato Petera, Hukarere College, St Joseph's Maori Girls College, Te Aute, Hato Paora and Turakina. They now have a combined roll of just over 600.
Declining rolls and other problems forced the closure of St Stephen's in 2000, and Queen Victoria in 2001.