By: Zoe Hunter
A Whakamārama mother has started a petition to convince the Ministry of Education to build a new secondary school in Ōmokoroa.
Jo Linthwaite said a high school northwest of the Wairoa River would alleviate the pressure on local schools due to roll growth.
Linthwaite said most of the primary schools in the area were struggling for space.
“All these students need secondary education, most go to the colleges in Tauranga, all of which are overcrowded,” she said.
A new high school in Ōmokoroa would also help to lower the number of motorists travelling the deadly stretch of State Highway 2 into Tauranga.
“Parents often go in and out of town to drop their children off at school,” she said.
Linthwaite said a new high school would open up the opportunity to include sporting and other extra-curricular activities in the area so people wouldn’t have to travel in to town.
Hundreds of people blocked the Wairoa Bridge last week to protest Government inaction and decision-making delays about the transport corridor between Bethlehem and Waihī.
Linthwaite said the Ministry of Education had recognised there was a need for a high school in the area, Linthwaite said, but nothing had been promised.
“We are not interested in a five- or 10-year plan,” she said. “We want it now.”
Western Bay of Plenty college students north of Tauranga were zoned for Katikati College or they could travel to the nearest high school at Otumoetai College.
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon said the school could cater for an increasing number of students, but he understood why Linthwaite was proposing a local college.
“I completely understand local people want local schooling options. I believe local people should go to their local school,” he said.
In August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced about $47 million would be spent repairing Otumoetai College buildings, and Gordon said the ministry had identified areas for roll growth.
“I am confident that we would be able to house increased numbers through that roll growth process,” he said.
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller was backing the petition and said the population had “quadrupled” since he went to school in Ōmokoroa.
“We need to move now to secure the land so we can build the school over the next few years,” he said.
“We have got many fantastic schools in town, but we need one in the west.”
Western Bay of Plenty District Council resource management manager Philip Martelli said the council was preparing a structured plan for Stage 3 of growth for Ōmokoroa.
Martelli said four possible options for the layout of the structure plan which will be released for consultation tomorrow.
Ministry of Education sector enablement and support deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the ministry was working with the Western Bay District Council to consider schooling options.
Casey said funding was approved for added capacity at Omokoroa Point School in 2017 and the ministry was discussing enrolment zone changes to best manage the short-term growth.
“Long-term planning around new schools is under way, and these will depend on the speed of population growth, demographic makeup and funding availability,” she said.
How to sign
To sign the petition, search New Secondary School in WBOP – Northwest of Wairoa River on Facebook.
Source: NZ Herald