A new Maori language immersion school in Richmond will lead a revitalisation of the language in the top of the south, its new principal says.
The school, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi, is expected to open to pupils in term three, with construction now under way.
On Saturday, newly appointed principal Merita Waitoa-Paki met with parents and the board at a hui at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology Nelson campus.
Ms Waitoa-Paki was the deputy principal at Maori immersion school Kura Whakapumau in Christchurch, the first kura in the South Island, founded 15 years ago.
She said it was exciting to be able to go from one of the oldest kura to becoming a part of the country's newest immersion school.
"This is an opportunity to be different and be creative and innovative in how we develop our language."
Kura produced confident young Maori leaders, and many of those who graduated from the kura had gone on to excel in tertiary study and in society, she said.
The new facility offered Nelson a chance to revolutionise its connection with the Maori language and culture, she said. "There needs to be a revitalisation in the language in Nelson. A culture must have a language and our language is Maori.
"How can you try to identify who you are if you don't have your native tongue?"
Parents Missy Broughton and Kim Hippolite were looking forward to sending their two children to the kura.
Ms Broughton said the project had been a long time coming, and it was great to see it nearly completed.
"For me coming from a family with no education in Te Reo Maori, for my children to learn what I have missed out on is huge."
Mr Hippolite said the creation of the school would mean the region would finally have Maori native speakers again.
"I didn't grow up with a Maori language, to give my children an opportunity to learn the Maori language first has been my goal.
"It's going to be a huge impact for us. This is the re-birth of our language."
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi board of trustees member Dayveen Stephens said about 35 pupils were registered already, most for the kura kaupapa (junior school) and three for the wharekura (senior school).
The kura will eventually cater for pupils from years 1 to 13, and will be open to students of any ethnicity.
- The Nelson Mail