Albany residents are upset that a 4ha piece of the local council reserve is being sold for a secondary school, without them having a say.

A group of 30 households living beside Rosedale Park are challenging the North Shore City Council over its secret negotiations with the Ministry of Education.

"When we purchased some 10 years ago we checked that the land was public reserve," said resident Philip O'Sullivan. "It is currently leased to the Rosedale Pony Club and is one of the last remaining areas of open green space in the area."

Other residents, like Eva Knox and Brett Rhodes, say they were attracted to the area because of the peaceful reserve with its rural outlook and ponies.

Residents had understood that the new secondary school, Albany Senior High School, was to go on the Massey University campus.

Mr O'Sullivan said it was a shock when they learned that the ministry was instead wanting to buy reserve land on the corner of Bush and Rosedale Roads.

There had been secret negotiations for some months, he said, and now the council had approved the sale in principle - without consultation, which it was required to do for significant things such as disposal of reserves.

"Being a senior school of 1500 pupils, I would expect about one in three students to have cars. Add to that 150 staff and there could be a total need to park 650 cars."

Ministry manager of school network provision Karl Hutton said Rosedale Park was the best of seven sites looked at in the fast-growing Albany Basin. It was also close to the Albany Junior High School.

The senior school would open in 2009 and over three years would build up to a roll of about 1400.

City parks manager Andrew Rutlege said the reserve status of Rosedale Park offered a high level of protection from private development but as a public entity, the ministry could, if necessary, take the land under the Public Works Act.

Mr Rutlege said the public could have a say during the resource consent process.