Māori leaders are promoting two separate initiatives to reopen boarding schools for Māori boys in the upper North Island.

A group of old boys from the former St Stephen's School at Bombay, also known by its Māori name Tipene, have opened a website for registrations for a new Māori boys' school which they plan to open in 2020.

The move comes just two weeks after medical entrepreneur Dr Lance O'Sullivan gathered 20 boys from Northland schools to be the first students in a Hato Petera Leadership Academy which he hopes to open on the Northcote site of Hato Petera College, which closed in August.

Both initiatives are being driven by influential Māori leaders, but neither group has yet gained approval from the churches that own the sites of the two defunct schools.


The Anglican Church's St Stephen's and Queen Victoria Schools Trust Board, which owns the Bombay site and the Parnell site of the former Queen Victoria School for Māori girls, commissioned a feasibility study in 2013 into reopening either a combined school or separate boys' and girls' schools.

But AUT director of student, business and community partnerships Agnes Naera, who was in the team that did the study and now sits on the trust board, said the trustees had a fiduciary duty to look after assets that were valued last year at $72 million.

She said the board wanted to reopen an educational facility for Māori but it would not necessarily be a traditional boarding school.

"They are talking about opening a facility which is about excellence for Māori," she said.

"We are all realistic that we are going to have to generate revenue, so we have to leave those options open."

Trust board chairman Bernard Te Paa said in July that he was open to a joint Anglican/Catholic school on the Hato Petera site. But Naera, who has also served on the Hato Petera board, said that would be difficult.

"There are some distinctions between how Catholics see the world and how Anglicans see the world," she said.

Joe Harawira is determined to open a
Joe Harawira is determined to open a "transitional" school in 2020. Photo / Supplied

Joe Harawira, a Conservation Department strategic partnerships manager who chairs the Tipene Reopening Committee, said his group planned to open a Māori boys' school in 2020 as a "transition" to whatever the trust board did eventually.


"At our last meeting they asked if we could hold off until 2025, because that's when they tell us they would be ready," he said.

"My committee said no, we would like to reopen in 2020 and use it as a transitioning process so that when the trust board has the school open we'll transition them over to the new school."

He has launched a website to take student registrations, Tipene Reopening, and is holding a hui at Gisborne on December 15 to launch the initiative.

He said his group was looking at "three or four potential sites" in and outside Auckland.

"We are thinking about satelliting with another school," he said.

Nathan Durie's school Manukura makes students
Nathan Durie's school Manukura makes students "proud to be Māori". Photo / Supplied

Nathan Durie, the principal of Manukura in Palmerston North and a member of the reopening committee, said his roll was "bursting at the seams" because the kura made students proud to be Māori.

"Over the last two months now that we have been promoting this idea around the country, there are hundreds of people who are lining up," he said.

He said the group had met with Cabinet ministers: "The ministers are very much in favour."

He said he was open to all options, including a coeducational Māori school, but his passion was for educating Māori boys.

"Māori boys' education is in a horrible state in this country and is in dire need of addressing," he said.

"St Stephen's won't be the answer, but I can guarantee it will be a great option. I'm not going to close the door on any option."