The Government is giving more than $4 million to build a new Nelson school for Maori immersion education.
The school for up to 61 students will be built on land behind Salisbury School in Richmond and is to open at the start of 2012. It means families in the top of the south and the West Coast will have the opportunity to have their children learn almost completely in te reo Maori.
A group called Tuia Te Matangi has been pushing for a total immersion school or kura kaupapa in the region for three years, and Dayveen Stephens, its kaiwhakahaere (co-ordinator), said today she was "totally ecstatic" over the decision.
"The main motivation for me was having to send my own children away we because we didn't have a Maori school here. For a parent to do that is quite a sacrifice."
Total immersion units within mainstream schools are available in the region, but Ms Stephens said her group wanted a whole school fully immersed in Maori. The kura will be known as Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia Te Matangi. Committee member Maria Briggs said it had taken more than 30 years for the idea to come to fruition.
"Nelson 30 years ago wasn't ready for something like this. People are more accepting now; the attitudes have changed."
At a kura kaupapa, all subjects, other than English, are taught in Maori. The curriculum is based in Maori culture and the schools are run by fully qualified teachers.
The school will have two fulltime teachers, one part-time teacher and a principal.
The decision to build the school comes despite two Marlborough school bilingual units closing last year after falling numbers failed to secure their future.
The funding also comes after the Government decided to close a multi-cultural school in Christchurch because it needed more than $2 million to replace its buildings and other nearby schools had the capacity to take its students.
Education Minister Anne Tolley said the kura was an exciting development for the Nelson region.
The new school is on land behind Salisbury School that is owned by the Government, but is surplus to the school's requirements.
Salisbury School acting principal Sarah Kennedy said she was looking forward to building links with the kura.
Ms Stephens said Education Ministry officials had indicated a kura kaupapa would be funded if there was sufficient demand. The minimum requirement for ministry funding is 21 students.
The new school already has a starting roll of 45 and construction is to start before the end of this year.
Leigh-Leigh Wiremu will be sending her four children to the kura and said it was a way for them to become fluent in their language and culture.
Associate Minister of Education Pita Sharples welcomed the fact that this was the first kura in Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka (Top of the South Island) to be established.
He said the kura would include design elements that reflected the community.
The establishment board of trustees would be appointed shortly. Tuia Te Matangi wanted to create a kura that would educate iwi, Maori from outside the region and non-Maori.
- © Fairfax NZ News