Students campaign to save Hato Petera College

Students campaign to save Hato Petera College

Students at Auckland's only Maori boarding school have launched their own campaign to save their school from closure.

Hato Petera College has been battling a string of problems over rundown hostel buildings, a falling roll and management in-fighting, but students are determined turn around the school's fortunes.

Hato Petera has fallen on hard times. It used to be the pride of Maori education, producing the likes of New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O'Sullivan, academic Dr Ranginui Walker and the late artist Ralph Hotere, but now it's in desperate need of repair.

The students in the hostel have been doing it tough.

"They were saying they were always cold at night; they had triple blankets on to keep warm. It was just unsafe I guess," says Hato Petera College head girl Tayla-Rose Campbell.

If the hostel doesn't meet Ministry of Education health and safety standards by the end of the year, its licence could be revoked.

Some targets have been met but students want to pick up the pace and they have taken the repair job into their own hands.

"We want to show that we're better than the adults because the adults have proven to us they can't really do a good job, so the students have really taken it on board to build it from the ground up," says student leader Jack McKee.

With the help of past and present students and the local community, piece-by-piece they are peeling back the old and bringing in a fresh look and feel.

It's about more than just repairing the physical aspects of the school; it's also about rebuilding the community and morale.

Hato Petera is one of six remaining Maori boarding schools in New Zealand and the only one in Auckland.

Students believe there would be serious consequences for some of them if the hostel were to close.

Their message to school management and the Ministry of Education is simple: "Help our Maori students achieve with excellence and get them to university. And this school can get us there, so we can be like Lance O'Sullivan," says Ms Campbell.

That will take a lot of hard work but they have already shown they are not afraid of that.

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