North Waikato braces for student boom
Schools near Waikato's northern border are bracing for a student boom as lower house prices and new developments draw families to small-town life.
Pokeno and Tuakau are fast becoming a hot ticket for families looking to escape soaring house prices and the super-city "rat race" in Auckland.
The population drift from Auckland and Hamilton is expected to have a significant impact on schools in the area, which have traditionally had small rolls.
The roll at Pokeno School is expected to increase from 150 to as many as 800 in the next 10 to 15 years as families move into new subdivisions, principal Blair Johnston said.
"That's going to impact massively on our school. At the moment, roughly about a third of our kids come from out of zone. The whole subdivision is within our school zone," he said.
"We have already had children enrol [whose parents] have bought in the new development."
Mr Johnston said there were plans by the Ministry of Education to expand the school - more classrooms, staff and resources.
"My understanding is that there's no intention for a new school to be built. It will be our school that will be catering for the growth.
"The biggest thing for us is going to be ensuring that we can work with the ministry to be proactive so that we're ready for the growth."
There will likely be a flow-on effect in other schools in the area as Mr Johnston will no longer be able to enrol out-of-zone students.
He said the rate at which properties were selling in Pokeno indicated that people were looking for houses outside of the Auckland locale and price range.
Barfoot and Thompson salesman William Tyndall said there were major developments in Pokeno and Tuakau that were drawing more families into town.
"They're seeing value for money," he said.
"Say you were looking at $550,000 in Pokeno, I would imagine the same property in Auckland would be 50-60 per cent more. You could be talking $800-850,000."
He said there was also a "super development" in Tuakau, which was one of the hottest property tickets in the district.
"The outer rims now are really beginning to hum because of price and everything," he said. "It's a very attractive option."
Tuakau Primary School principal Margaret Kaa said the school had grown by about 100 students in the past five years and future growth was tipped to be "huge".
"There's a possibility that over the next 20 years there's going to be about another 11,000 people in Tuakau, so we have to look at that," she said.
"We have to future-proof the school."
The school was "full" and the ministry was considering building new classrooms for next year, she said.
A ministry spokesperson said they were monitoring the rolls of schools in and around Pokeno.
"Over the last seven years all schools have experienced minor roll fluctuations that are expected in the normal course of events. Currently there is sufficient capacity in the network of schools. However, over time more classrooms may be required at some schools and these will be provided as necessary."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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