By: Nicki Harper
The Ministry of Education is under way with the formal process of disposing of land in Havelock North that had been earmarked for a school, prompting criticism the move is premature before a full review of the education needs in the wider Hastings district.
The Government bought the site of the former Arataki Camping Ground to build a new primary school on, but then deemed it unsuitable for educational purposes due to the odour from the Te Mata Mushroom farm.
Read more: Mushrooming compost in Havelock North
A proposal to relocate Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Wānanga Whare Tāpere o Takitimu to that site was also dismissed because of the odour issues.
In June last year, the Government announced that $4 million would be spent on eight new portable classrooms to help with expanding school rolls, some of which had already been installed with others due to come on line over the next year.
In May this year, Education Minister Nikki Kaye announced that the Ministry of Education would work with schools and communities to develop a strategy for the Havelock North/Hastings area, as well as Napier if necessary.
The key work on that was scheduled to take place next year.
In the meantime, the Ministry’s head of education infrastructure service Kim Shannon said the land had now been handed over to LINZ for disposal.
“The Ministry of Education can only hold land for education purposes.
“Once land is no longer required for education, or considered unsuitable, we are obliged to hand it over to LINZ for disposal under the Public Works Act 1981.”
She said the disposal process was set out in the Public Works Act and did not require community consultation.
Tukituki Labour candidate Anna Lorck said it was premature to go ahead with the disposal process before a review had been completed assessing the extent of the education facilities needed.
“This move shows the Government and the Ministry are running roughshod over the local community.
“The mushroom farm was used as a political scapegoat and the odour buffer zone is no longer relevant.
“Once this land is gone, trying to get other land in an area that’s going to be suitable for a school will be difficult.”
Ms Lorck said that if Labour was elected it would halt the disposal of the land and would consult with local and school communities in Havelock North and Hastings.
When concerns began to be raised about the fate of the Arataki site, a large number of people got behind a group agitating for the promised school for Havelock North.
Resident John Nobilo was a member of that group, and he said it was now a matter of waiting until due process had been completed.
“Temporary classrooms were not the desired outcome people were hoping for.
“They were promised a new school and about 200 people attended a meeting at Havelock North High School, which indicated the level of concern.
“There is still a lot of interest in the site and we have told people there is a due process to go through and then we will wait to see what the outcome is.”
Ms Shannon said work towards a new site for Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Wānanga Whare Tāpere o Takitimu has been progressing positively, and it was hoped an announcement would be made about this soon.
Source: Hawke’s Bay Today