Forty-one per cent (4323) of Rotorua's 10,389 children aged 9 and under, live in areas with a deprivation rating of 9 or 10, according to Rotorua Lakes Council figures. That means they are missing out on the basics. Not only that but three out of five tamariki living in poverty stay there for life. Late last year the council started the Child Equity Programme with Sunset Primary School, Decile 1, to help give children living in hardship access to things they were previously missing out on. Samantha Olley spent time at the school yesterday to see what was changing.
Sunset Primary School's rumaki teacher Eru Barlow has noticed "passion" spark among his pupils when they have tried new things in the past year.
"Their attitude towards school, their self-esteem, the new opportunities ... There have been a lot of benefits."
Waka ama, mini ball, and ukulele sessions are among a dozen new things being rolled out at the school as a result of the Child Equity Programme with the Rotorua Lakes Council.
The list also includes the Bikes in Schools programme, Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring, the Making a Difference swim programme, Te Waiariki Purea Trust school holiday programmes, the Te Wa Kōrero o ngā Tamariki Oral Language, collaborations with the Fordlands Community Association and Rotorua Youth Development Trust, and upgrades to the school grounds and sports fields.
The equity programme's strategy adviser, Jill Campbell, told the Rotorua Daily Post "there were lots of organisations with great intentions, but they were often not targeted at those who needed it the most".
"In some cases we are just doing introductions."
Oshean Karaha, 10, has started playing rugby and mini ball this year, as a result of the programme.
"I like tackling," she told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"I play with the boys and it doesn't really matter to me."
Her classmate, Manaia Taramai, 10, has taken up those two sports too.
"I like getting the tries and running with the ball," she said.
"I play rugby with my cousins at home too."
The council's sport and recreation team has been marking the school field for sports, since the programme began.
"It means we know where the try lines are now," Manaia said.
Dre Scanlon, 10, has been learning to play the ukulele.
"My favourite part is picking but when I'm older I want to do guitar ... Not really for performances, just so I can play songs on my own that I know."
The council is working on plans for a bike track around the school field as part of the programme.
At a community hui this month, principal Eden Chapman explained one of the concept designs.
"The green track would be asphalt, there may be some tracks along the far side of the field with different kinds of obstacles and challenges for kids. Then over by Pullar Park would be a dirt track. I am hoping for mountain bike skills and a pump track-type idea.
"Council have raised the money and made the connections for us ... We have to go through a council procurement process, so as much as I'd like that done now, it's going to take some time."
Yesterday, he said the programme had been "a period of real adjustment".
"It has increased my workload but we have said yes to everything we have been offered so that over time we know what works best for us and what doesn't. It has put some pressure on our resources to fit everything in, but the top priority is the kids' wellbeing - that they aren't missing out."
Chapman said the school was "working towards" equity for its pupils, but was not there yet.
He said the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust had provided $37,000 to pay for an extracurricular activities co-ordinator at the school, which had reduced pressure on staff.
"They prepare the kids for each activity and communicate with whānau. For example, we have sevens this week, robotics coming up, there's chess and there's music."
PlaceMakers gives the school a spruce up
As a result of the equity programme, 50 delegates at a PlaceMakers conference spent yesterday morning doing a working bee at Sunset Primary School and also donated sports gear.
The delegates replaced timber tops on chairs, built garden boxes, planted new vegetables and replaced steps and spouting.
PlaceMakers Rotorua and Taupō manager Chris Bell said seeing the pupils' smiles was "incredible".
"It did pull on our heartstrings a bit ... They had been looking at getting these seats fixed for two to three years."