One piece of paper and five signatures was all it took for one school to make its own history. One piece of paper and a few hundred words was all it took to potentially change the future of tamariki to come. That one piece of paper with the words "memorandum of understanding" now held up with pride cannot portray the significance of the history about to lay before all those in one Rotorua kura. Rotokawa School has made sure the hapū land the school rests on will be properly acknowledged from this point on.
A local iwi will be formally acknowledged on a local school board in the hopes of creating a more rounded future for children and the community.
Rotokawa School has created a memorandum of understanding called Te Tatau Pounamu alongside Ngāti Uenukukōpako which came into effect yesterday in a special assembly.
The memorandum means the iwi is guaranteed a seat on the school's board of trustees for years to come. The school land sits on iwi land.
They are the second Eastside school to make the iwi presence official, with Owhata School legitimising the seat for Ngāti Uenukukōpako two years ago.
Mokoia Intermediate will sign it next week and Lynmore Primary School the week after.
Local kaumatua Paraone Pirika was chosen to represent the iwi and hapū at Rotokawa.
Pirika has worked in education and social services for the past 30 years and focused on rangatahi who "have gone off the rails".
He said tribes had given land to education with verbal agreements they would be part of the school decision making but as new people came in, agreements were forgotten.
Putting it in writing ensured the relationship continued.
Students bring te reo Māori sign language to the streets
Mental health advocate Michael Naera reflects on a decade of service
"If we're going to make a change, we need to get the whole community on board," Pirika said.
"Our kids aren't achieving in schools and are becoming another statistic of negativity and we want to change that from a tribal point of view."
The memorandum also meant stories and knowledge would be passed down to develop the identity, culture and language of pupils, most of whom were from the area.
Principal Regan Williams said the school felt the voice of the hapū was essential for staff, tamariki and the wider community.
Williams said although the school currently had a member on the board from Ngāti Uenukukōpako, cementing this position would reap endless social and educational benefits.
The school was in the process of developing a new curriculum, intertwining local stories within the learning to make education more meaningful for pupils.
"Having a connection with our land will allow us to support the children and whānau that are a part of the school community, and allow all to develop a sense of belonging with this area.
"If anything, it will build the community even more."
Williams said the memorandum would strengthen the relationship as well as have a positive knock-on effect throughout the community.
Boards of Trustees must have between three and seven parent-elected trustees, a chairperson and the principal.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the hapū qualified as a corporate body and the partnership would reflect the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the community.
Local kaumatua and kuia Paraone Pirika, John Ransfield and Wharangi Ua-Cookson represented Ngāti Uenukukōpako alongside the board chairman and principal to sign the document.
Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said with the demographic and education statistics in the region, the school's move was necessary.
"It really is important to have people who have that proximity to key issues that Māori face.
"They're here forever and not going away which makes them the best possible investors you can get," he said.
Mayor Steve Chadwick said the council partnership with Te Tatau o Te Arawa developed, strengthened and added value to their work.
"I commend Rotokawa School for understanding the importance of working with tangata whenua for the benefit of their wider community."