New secondary school for WBOP sought

Jo Linthwaite of Whakamarama has started a petition for a new secondary school northwest of the Wairoa River so her children, from left, Ayla, 8, Jorja, 6, Ethan, 4, and Courtney, 2, can go to school locally when the time comes

Jo Linthwaite’s children might not be ready for secondary school just yet, but the Whakamarama woman is not wasting any time in making sure there will be one on her doorstep when the time comes.

The mum of four has set up a petition calling for the Minister of Education to set up a new secondary school northwest of the Wairoa River.

Tauranga is a rapidly expanding city and young people living on the outskirts travel long distances to attend over-crowded high schools, contributing to traffic congestion throughout the city and leaving students with little time for homework, family engagement and extracurricular activities, says the petition.

The petition has won support from Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, which is currently looking at options for the future locations of schools in the region.

Jo says the area between Te Puna and south of Katikati has a large number of families with children that would feed into a new school. A local secondary school would also have the benefit of reducing traffic volumes on State Highway 2.

While she has only been living in the area since April 2017, she wants to see a secondary school established sooner rather than later.

“Most of our local primary schools are bursting at the seams and it got me to thinking ‘why is there not a college?’ I’ve got two pre-schoolers and two children at primary and I would really love for them to be able to go to a local college.”

After talking with local MP Todd Muller, Jo says a new secondary school does look promising but action is needed by the community to get the ball rolling.

“Hence we finally decided on a petition. It has been submitted, we have a Facebook page, now we need to get it signed.”

The petition is available to sign online and hard copies will be available in local schools, pre-schools, shops and community centres. A Facebook page has also been set up: New Secondary School in WBOP - Northwest of Wairoa River.

Liz Carter’s daughter Rachael buses from Whakamarama to Otumoetai College and back five days a week. It’s a long day for her, she says.

“She gets up just after six and leaves the house just after seven to catch the bus at 7.20am. The bus doesn’t always get to school on time because it makes lots of stops and gets stuck in the traffic. She gets home again at quarter past four and then it’s time for homework. It makes it a very long day.”

Liz says having a local secondary school would make “a huge difference”.

“She wouldn’t have to leave so early and face the traffic to get into town.”

Liz says it seems short-sighted to be sending children by bus into the city, adding to the congestion on the roads, and contributing to schools that are already full.

Todd Muller agrees that a secondary school needs to be built to cater for the area west of Tauranga.

 “Otumoetai, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga Boys’ and Girls’ are absolutely haemorrhaging in terms of the amount of kids going to those schools. The community is growing extremely fast and [building new schools] seem to take ages to happen, so let’s get on with it.”

Todd says Jo’s petition is “hugely important” because the more community support the Ministry of Education can see for a new school, the greater the likelihood it will happen.

The Western Bay of Plenty District Council is also in support of a new secondary school in the area, preferably in Omokoroa.

According to Ministry of Education data received by the council there are 1113 intermediate and secondary students in the area already. Projections based on 2013 Census data predict there will be 1342 children aged 13-15 years in 2038.

Resource management manager Phillip Martelli says from a community development perspective it will be important to have a secondary school on the Omokoroa peninsula.

“We’re talking about developing a town there of 12,000 people and a secondary school will be an important part of that.

“We’re talking with the Ministry of Education and they are narrowing down their thoughts of where they want to go as well. They haven’t made a decision where or when yet but they’re definitely part of the process going forward. They’re actively considering something out there which they weren’t a few years ago.”

The Ministry of Education confirmed it was working with the council to consider future schooling options in the area.

Deputy secretary sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, says long-term planning around new schools is underway, and will depend on the speed of population growth, demographic makeup and funding availability.

A public open day will be held in the Omokoroa Community Church on Hamurana Road on Wednesday, September 26 from 3-5pm and 7-9pm to discuss four options created by the council for the future location of schools, a town centre, community hub and recreational reserves. The options will then be open for public comment on haveyoursay.westernbay.govt.nz