Rapidly growing school rolls have led to $17 million worth of expansions approved in the Bay of Plenty already this year - with more planned to take place across the next year.

Western Bay of Plenty school principals have said they are continuing to feel the squeeze from the region's growth as pupil roll numbers climb, stretching resources.

And while schools get more funding per student when their roll goes up, it doesn't cover the other increased costs that come with rising numbers, they say.

By the middle of next year, $5 billion will have been committed across New Zealand to school property since 2008, according to the Ministry of Education.

That includes $18m for a new school in the Pyes Pa area (with a planned roll of 650), and $2.5m for six roll growth classrooms - two each at Oropi School, Welcome Bay School and Maungatapu School, announced in June this year.


In the Bay of Plenty, Papamoa College and Golden Sands School have undergone significant expansions, Otumoetai School, Bellevue School, Bethlehem School, Te Wharekura o Mauao and Brookfield School have new classrooms, and schools such as Pillans Point School are also on-track for additional classrooms.

According to figures provided to the Bay of Plenty Times by Priority One, schools-related building consent values reached $10.6m in Tauranga, and $6.4m in the Western Bay District in the year to August 2016. That was up on $6.8m in Tauranga and $3m in the Western Bay in full year 2015.

"Many school's rolls have increased significantly, and very quickly," said Dane Robertson, president of Western Bay of Plenty Principals Association.

"There is a feeling that there is a struggle to keep up with the numbers. Libraries, music rooms and halls are being made into makeshift classrooms. There is some feeling that the funding just can't keep up with the growth. There are certain areas of Tauranga that are overdue for a school. The [Ministry of Education] is aware of this, but meanwhile schools have to make do with what they have."

A Ministry spokesperson said the ministry had been aware for some time that schools in many areas were having to manage the challenges that come with growing rolls.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said the college had been involved in considerable building works recently, including modernising its technology block, and a $2.7 million upgrade of its main gym. It also got a building consent exemption for $300,000 in temporary repairs for leaky building issues.

And it hoped to do a major rebuild in the next two years of its four big 50-year-old two storeyed blocks.

"The numbers in this region are growing," he said.

"I'm at 2000 now, and it's a big school. My roll is up by about another 21 this year - that's why we have to ballot."

Otumoetai College can't take any more, though the plan was to expand to 2300 when they looked at redevelopment, he said.

Zoning restrictions for Tauranga Boys' College, Tauranga Girls' College and for Otumoetai Colleges remain tightly in place.

There was also unmet demand for co-educational secondary schools.

"We get a lot of inquiries for people wanting to go co-ed, but we just can't physically take them," Mr Randell said.

"If you live in say Welcome Bay and want to go to a co-ed school, the one that doesn't have a zone is the Mount."

As a result, those pupils ended up travelling across the city to attend a co-ed school, he said.

Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping said the headmasters of Otumoetai schools met with regional Ministry officials last week for an information-sharing discussion on enrolment zones.

"It was looking at how our school rolls are increasing and how schools can accommodate all the students that will be living in this area," he said.

"We looked at where each school's zone was and where the overlaps were, and whether or not they needed to be changed going forward."

Mr Robertson said that schools would have to cope.

"There are new classrooms in the process of being built, but the process can be very slow when students are being crammed into small spaces. The Ministry is aware of the growth and are trying to address it as best they can under the guidelines they have to follow."

He noted that rising Auckland house prices were driving people out of Auckland to the Bay of Plenty.

"The growth of the Tauriko Business Estate and the Tauranga Port have helped make Tauranga a desirable place for business. Tauranga is a great place to bring up your family. It is no wonder the city is growing."

Priority One interim chief executive Greg Simmonds said that whilst the significant roll growth was challenging for schools to manage, it was good to see young families choosing to live and work in the area.

"For businesses looking to relocate to Tauranga, the options and availability of quality schooling is an important factor, particularly for those businesses wanting to retain their staff when the business relocates. Fortunately, the Western Bay of Plenty has some of the best schools in the country, because the best teachers want to live here."

Funding shortfall

Lisa Morresey, principal of Mount Maunganui Intermediate School says her school is struggling to cope with roll growth. Photo/File
Lisa Morresey, principal of Mount Maunganui Intermediate School says her school is struggling to cope with roll growth. Photo/File

A key problem, says Lisa Morresey, principal of Mount Intermediate - which has seen its roll double in the past three years - is that while schools get more funding per student when their roll goes up, it doesn't cover the other increased costs that come with rising numbers.

"We've been fortunate the ministry has built some roll growth classrooms for us," she said. "But although you get a furniture grant from the ministry, it nowhere near covers what we had to purchase."

That included needing twice as many computers to cope with the number of kids, and the space pressure on common use areas such as halls, which also required additional furniture.

Ms Morresey said an additional challenge was that school support staff numbers provided by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health were not rising to match the increased pupil numbers.

"We're feeling access to dental services, child mental health, special education and those sorts of services are really impeded because we've got so many more pupils."