Hāto Pētera leaders unite to keep school doors open

By Talisa Kupenga

The chairman of the former Te Whānau o Hāto Pētera Trust says there is a plan in place to prevent the possible closure of New Zealand's only Māori co-ed Catholic school. Rudy Taylor says since the establishment of Hāto Pētera Limited earlier this year, new relationships have formed and a strategy is in the pipeline to keep the boarding school doors open.

These leaders are coming together to ensure there is a future for Hāto Pētera School.

Hāto Pētera Ltd chairman Rudy Taylor told Te Kāea, “We've got to build a bridge to accept that we have our differences but we have a strong opinion of how we can work together. So there is a lot of reflections but at the same time it's about the children not about personalities."

In recent years hostel problems, dwindling enrolments and governance issues became apparent and the boarding school's owners, the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, sought to assess the school's viability, which included the possibility of closure come next year.

Hāto Pētera Principal John Matthews says, “The junior hostel closed in October and then in December they closed the senior dorms meaning no housing for our students this year for 2016. A lot of the whanau [were] voting by their feet this last year because of their grievances not being heard or not seeming to be heard and so Rudy has come on board, he's investigated things and has created solutions."

The school has since seen a restructure, hostels re-open, governance relationships created and a new strategy being developed, which has already created an increase in enrollments.

"It's our board's belief that the college is absolutely viable. Our role numbers are growing, so we started with 36 and we've got up to 49,” says Mathews.

Hato Petera Board chair Mate Webb says, “I have heard just last week another 24 children have been enrolled by their families to come to school here. There's no way we will give up see this school close down.”

Consultation meetings are still ongoing but if it is one thing these three are confident of is that the school will not be closed on their watch.