City exodus means boom for country schools
Schools in Hamilton's outlying villages are bulging as city slickers escape the confines of surburbia for a slice of the country life.
Latest Census figures show stellar growth in Tamahere-Tauwhare, Matangi and Whatawhata and Te Kowhai with real estate experts pointing to a healthy lifestyle property market.
Census figures show the population of Whatawhata grew by 19.9 per cent to 2475 in 2013 and Whatawhata School principal Matt Stockton said in that time, the roll had nearly tripled.
"In 2006 we had about 63 kids. We just had a powhiri today to welcome our newest kids and we're on about 170," Mr Stockton said.
A new classroom was opened this week and Mr Stockton said the school's staffing numbers would grow next year to fill 10 classrooms - seven more than in 2006.
"What we're seeing is a lot of people in a lot of new houses with young families which is the best thing the school could ask for," he said.
Te Kowhai School principal Tony Grey said student numbers had grown by 86 since the last census - a growth that was steady and consistent - and reflected the 18.1 per cent growth in the area.
"Our school is 340 [pupils] and a lot of people are really surprised by that because they probably think we are some sort of wee country school."
They received approval from the Education Ministry to build a new three-classroom block but with a confined site Mr Grey said expansion would take a lot of "strategic planning".
"We've got quite a restrictive site with a retirement village, a gully and a highway as our boundaries so there is a lot of work happening around our site capacity and what we can hold."
Matangi School had dropped to as low as 45 students but has grown rapidly since then and principal Craig Pentecost said they were on the verge of advancing to the next funding level.
"I've been here for a year and a half and we've grown from 60 to 96 to date," he said. "We need to hit 101 to get our next classroom up and running so it's pretty exciting times here."
Pre-enrolments for 2014 edged the school closer to their target but Mr Pentecost said they were bound to get there as new members of the community arrived.
Property experts said lifestyle blocks and residential sub-divisions spawned on the outskirts of Hamilton as people left the rat-race but remained within striking distance of city amenities.
"There is a proliferation of lifestyle blocks that have obviously gone in all of those areas that surround Hamilton since 2006," Lodge real estate managing director Jeremy O'Rourke said.
"The number of people who pour into the city everyday makes our day time population significantly different to our night time population."
Lugton's managing director David Lugton said there was no shortage of lifestyle blocks up for grabs and if buyers couldn't find a house they liked, they would simply build it.
"There are a lot of lifestyle blocks and they are slowly being taken up and there is building taking place on those."
Hamilton acts as a commercial and social hub for escapees to the country life and Mr Lugton said it was set to continue.
"You get all of the benefits of the city without living in the city and certainly, that trend is not going to slow down anytime soon."
Harcourts lifestyle specialist Aaron Davey said the market flat-lined after the Global Financial Crisis but had shown improvement.
"I think it just comes from the fact that Hamilton is growing at a rapid rate and those who are looking for a change are taking the plunge and moving out of town."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is it time for backyard fireworks to be banned?Related story: (See story)