Land plans concern

The Education Ministry has bought land to move Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Tonga o Hokianga in Whirinaki to a site that can accommodate the growing school.

Koutu resident Diana Ellis called a public meeting at the Opononi Memorial Hall on Wednesday for Koutu and Whirinaki residents to measure opposition to the move.

A second meeting has now been called for November 22 at 4pm at Opononi Memorial Hall to inform people of the outcome of the first meeting and also discuss plans for a presentation to the Kaipara District Council at the beginning of December.

The council is expected to change the designation of the land from coastal living to one that allows the ministry to go ahead with its plans.

And Ms Ellis will be there to oppose that change.

She says she is not against the kura but is opposed to where the ministry wants to put it. The first she and many Koutu residents heard of the plans for the school was a sign posted on the property.

"The whole consultation process has been very minimal - to say the least. And it's nearly ready to go through," Ms Ellis says.

She asked the crowd of more than 80 members of the South Hokianga community to register whether they were for or against moving the school to Koutu - 45 of those present said they were against the move, while 25 supported it.

Michelle Sarich, one of two co-principals at the kura, says the school needs more space.

Its current site in Whirinaki was suitable for the 50 students it had in 2004 but with the roll now at 105, she says the space is not sufficient.

The school draws students from Mitimiti to Waimamaku and as far east as Otaua and there is not enough room on the current site to expand.

"Our kids have got nothing, absolutely nothing," she told the crowd in Opononi.

She says she understands the concerns of residents who feel they should have been included in the ministry's moving plans but the school needs to grow.

"Who are we to stand in the way of that growth?" she asked.

Koutu residents raised concerns over the inclusion of a gymnasium, the increased traffic and pedestrian safety, light pollution and other aspects of the required infrastructure.

Ms Ellis has invited prominent resident Arthur Harawira to the second meeting on November 22 to speak on kura and the government and says she expects a representative from the ministry to be present.

Northern News