8 Sep 2015

Politicians unite over Turakina college

8:06 pm on 8 September 2015

Politicans are putting aside their differences in an effort to save troubled boarding school Turakina Māori Girls' College.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie. Photo: Supplied

Rangitikei District Mayor Andy Watson and National MP for Rangitikei Ian McKelvie, oppose the possible closure of the school, saying it would be a big loss for the community.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has said her ministry had been working with the school for three years but there had not been enough progress in improving its financial situation and buildings.

Its owner - the Presbyterian church - the school, and its campaigners have been working frantically to garner support and make submissions to the ministry by this Friday's deadline outlining why it shouldn't close by as early as January next year.

But Mr Watson said the school was not being given a fair chance to show the steps it was taking to make things right.

He said more time was needed to prepare a new plan which would ensure the kura had a future.

"The school needs time to prepare a proper case regarding the actions it can take. The school and board recognise that changes need to be made and I have confidence in that.

"It is frustrating, there are groups running around town, the old girls have got together and they're trying to get their case [together], but two weeks just isn't long enough and the board want to be able to say 'hey these are the steps we intend taking, these are the people we're approaching for support'."

Mr Watson said he would be putting pressure on Ms Parata to reconsider her stance when he was in Wellington on Thursday.

"I'll go down with the girls on Thursday to Parliament when the submissions are presented but in the back of mind I'm thinking 'has there been sufficient time to prepare the best possible case?' and I think the answer's 'no'.

"I'll be asking the minister to say 'hey look let's give a genuine time frame which allows some full discussions to be made'."

Rangitikei District Mayor Andy Watson.

Rangitikei District Mayor Andy Watson. Photo: Supplied

Mr McKelvie agreed it should stay open, on the proviso that improvements were made.

"The ministry has decided it should, I don't think it needs to close, I think there's clearly some huge economic challenges around keeping it open in its current state and in its current environment."

Mr McKelvie has received support from Labour MP Adrian Rurawhe, the Labour MP for western Māori electorate Te Tai Hauāuru

Mr Rurawhe said there was division within the National Party on the issue.

"Quite clearly there are different opinions within the minister's own party. I support what Ian McKelvie has said because some of the messages that the minister has been giving obviously makes him think - and me think as well - that the decision has already been made to close the school."

Students at Turakina Maori Girls' School.

Students at Turakina Maori Girls' School. Photo: Facebook

Current students, old girls and other campaigners will stage an event at midday this Thursday outside Parliament.

The delegation said it aimed to showcase the schools' successes over its 110-year history and featured a cultural performance by current students.

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