by PETER GRACE
Ongoing failure to fulfil agreed responsibilities has led Auckland Catholic diocese to close Hato Petera College’s boarding facilities, the diocese has said in a statement.
“The consequences of the continual breach of the trust deed over the 20-year term of the lease resulted in the diocese not renewing the lease agreement in 2014 for a further 20-year period, but offering a five year rolling lease arrangement,” the diocese stated.
This was initially not accepted.
A former teacher at the school, Pa Mikaere Ryan, MHM, told NZ Catholic that the question of the college’s survival was now in the minds of all those associated with it.
Most of the 70 or so remaining students are boarders.
The diocese stated that more than 20 years ago, in response to requests by Hato Petera College whanau, the diocese set up the Te Whanau o Hato Petera Trust.
“In signing this trust deed, Te Whanau o Hato Petera Trust accepted total responsibility for the land, buildings
and operations of the trust, and a 20-year lease of the land comprising the boarding facilities was agreed upon,” the diocese stated.
But over the past 20 years, only very minor maintenance had been carried out, with the result that some buildings are no longer suitable to accommodate students, and a lot of work and investment is needed to bring facilities up to standard.
In addition, the trust has financial difficulties, which would only become worse because of the state of the facilities, and the hostel has been getting by recently only with financial help from the diocese.
According to the diocese, the original hostel concept was for it to be run as noho whanau units, where a Catholic Maori couple provided a supportive family environment and provided care, advice and guidance for their students, giving real strength to boarding.
“The organisation of the hostel has changed dramatically over the last few years,” the statement said, “and the hostel now operates very differently. The concept of a family who pray and who eat together has been lost.
“The current operating model for the hostel does not adequately meet the needs of students.”
The diocese stated that the lease agreement was only formalised when Dr Lance O’Sullivan took over as co-chair of the trust. “If this had not occurred, the Ministry of Education hostel licence would have been terminated.”
Pa Ryan told NZ Catholic that he taught at Hato Petera from 1960 to about 1975. He was also on the board for quite a few years.
He was still very much connected with Hato Petera, Pa Ryan said.
The bishop’s statement about the reasons for closing the boarding facilities was accurate and careful.
“Apparently there has been no maintenance made.”
He had helped with construction and maintenance when he lived there, Pa Ryan said, and it seemed nonsensical to him that the boarding facilities and swimming pool had been allowed to deteriorate so much.
Pa Ryan said he thought it would be pretty stupid not to keep the college going.
“I think it would be a terrible waste to have it closed.
“I envisage them doing a lot of rebuilding and repainting for the next year and trying to keep going for the day pupils.” There was also a movement to find places for displaced boarders, he said.
The diocese statement said it is setting up a team to review Catholic Maori education for secondary-aged students.