4 Dec 2014

Catholic Diocese 'letting down' students

7:23 am on 4 December 2014

The Labour Party says the Catholic Diocese of Auckland is letting down Hato Petera College, and is urging religious leaders not to put students' education at risk.

Kelvin Davis

Kelvin Davis says the Diocese needs to act. Photo: Supplied

The Maori boarding school's hostel buildings (noho kainga) sit on North Shore land owned by the Diocese, which has offered the college a short-term lease extension.

An Education Review Office (ERO) report says a lack of agreement between the parties is holding back progress at the school.

In a statement, kaihautu (principal) John Matthews said: "We have sought avenues to resolve property and tenure arrangements. The questions that have been raised are a matter for the Catholic Diocese of Auckland who are managing the agreements moving forward."

The Diocese has refused to answer questions from Te Manu Korihi. The school's Board of Trustees also would not comment.

Labour's associate education spokesperson Kelvin Davis said the Diocese needs to act: "The boarding facilities are substandard. It's a matter between the Diocese and the school, so the Diocese needs to step up and help out.

"My understanding is that they're talking but they're making no progress and we can't have the boys and girls' education jeopardised because of the facilities they're living in, and I think it's an issue that needs to be resolved pretty quickly."

Mr Davis said he would write to the Diocese to tell Catholic leaders that the situation was "unacceptable and needs to be sorted out".

He went on to say: "They need to be supporting the school by making sure that the boarding facilities are up to scratch". The school's obviously doing its part educationally and academically but they're being let down by the Church".

The ERO said the Catholic Diocese has offered a short-term lease extension, but uncertainties remain which affect trustees' decision-making about the school's future. It has asked the Ministry of Education to intervene.

In a statement, the ministry's Head of Sector Enablement and Support, Catrina Casey, said: "We will be meeting with the Board of Trustees as soon as possible to discuss the recommendations in the ERO report. Following this we will work with the Board of Trustees to develop a plan of action that will take into account the suggested actions within the ERO report."

Waitangi claim

There is also a claim before the Waitangi Tribunal over the land in Northcote.

In its report, the ERO said: "A Treaty of Waitangi claim against the Catholic Diocese from old boys of the school, relating to the historical Deed of Trust for the property surrounding the school, is affecting school and Diocese relationships at present."

The claim centres on the land where the kura is sited, which was granted to the Catholic Church by Governor George Grey in 1849.

One of the group asking for an inquiry, Frank Rawiri, said: "We are at a crisis point with the future of the school. If the Wai 1385 claim is not settled the way we would like to settle it, we may as well say good-bye to Hato Petera."

"We want to get the land back that has been lost or at least some of it. This remains possible

because some of the land is still owned by the Crown."

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