A Northland principal says two surveillance cameras that caused "disgust" among students were not installed in his school's toilets but rather small rooms leading to them.

The two cameras were part of a surveillance network fitted at Tauraroa Area School, about 25km south of Whangarei, on Tuesday.

A surveillance camera above the sign to the entrance of the girls' toilet at Northland's Tauraroa Area School. Photo / Aart Lewis
A surveillance camera above the sign to the entrance of the girls' toilet at Northland's Tauraroa Area School. Photo / Aart Lewis

Photos of the cameras show them positioned above signs marking the entry to girls' and boys' toilets used mostly by Year 9-11 students.

Year 11 student Aart Lewis said his fellow students had felt "pretty disgusted because, in the boys' toilets, [the camera] looks straight onto the urinal".

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"And the girls' toilets, they all get changed for netball and after-school sports in those toilets," he said.

A view towards the boys urinal and toilets from the wall where the surveillance camera was fitted at Tauraroa Area School. Photo/Grant Burns
A view towards the boys urinal and toilets from the wall where the surveillance camera was fitted at Tauraroa Area School. Photo/Grant Burns

However, principal Grant Burns denied this, saying the cameras had not been installed in the toilets, but rather in vestibules, or small rooms, leading to them.

"I would like to make clear that the urinals are not in line of sight of the camera," he said.

The cameras were also due to be removed because they had been mistakenly placed in the toilet vestibules, he said.

Instead, they were supposed to have been fitted outside the toilet area, overlooking a foyer containing lockers so students going into-or-out of the toilets could be identified.

"The cameras were installed to prevent vandalism and other potential misbehaviour as part of a recent security upgrade of the school," Burns said.

"As soon as I was made aware of the placement of the cameras - even though they are not in the toilets - I asked that they be moved. I regret that they haven't been moved yet."

A surveillance camera above a sign marking the entrance to the boys' toilet at Northland's Tauraroa Area School. Photo / Aart Lewis
A surveillance camera above a sign marking the entrance to the boys' toilet at Northland's Tauraroa Area School. Photo / Aart Lewis

However, Year 11 student Lewis felt the school had been slow to respond to student concerns.

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While students quickly reported the cameras to teachers and a deputy principal, Lewis did not hear the school make a public statement about what was being done to fix the situation until Friday.

Students had also kept covering the camera in the boys' toilet with paper, but this was removed at least three times by staff, he said.

A surveillance camera has been mistakenly fitted in the area containing the boys' toilet at Northland's Tauraroa Area School. Photo / Aart Lewis
A surveillance camera has been mistakenly fitted in the area containing the boys' toilet at Northland's Tauraroa Area School. Photo / Aart Lewis

Burns confirmed that on Wednesday, the cameras had been switched on.

"The covering of the cameras was interpreted as mischievous, rather than an attempt to ensure their safety," he said in explanation of why the papers were removed.

A privacy commissioner spokesman did not wish to comment on the cameras at Tauraroa Area School but agreed a school's surveillance cameras should not "be collecting images of people half undressed sitting on a toilet".

However, schools might be able to fix cameras in toilets in areas where people were not getting undressed if they had "strong justification" to do so.

This may include cases where there was concern over sexual or physical assaults and vandalism.