by PETER GRACE
While most Kiwis relaxed over the holidays, a team of volunteers put in a huge effort to save Hato Petera College.
Late last year Auckland diocese decided to close the college’s boarding hostels, managed by a trust board, because
of their poor condition as the result of lack of maintenance over 20 years.
A few weeks later renovation of the hostels began, accompanied by a press release announcing plans to reopen
them in 2016 — much to the surprise of the diocese.
The diocese responded by saying the “new group of trustees is not legally constituted”.
On January 15, at Hato Petera College, Vivian Hahipene told NZ Catholic that a new group of hostel trustees (Whanau
Whanui o Hato Petera), led by Murray Painting, was elected in December.
Richard Ngoungoumaui, an old boy and volunteer from Whakatane, showed NZ Catholic the work that had been going
on for several weeks. The work had the blessing of Bishop Patrick Dunn, he said.
Mr Ngoungoumaui explained that Mr Hahipene, Sir Toby Curtis and Mr Painting had a korero with the bishop and discussed the closure of the hostels, and the change came about.
“We are ever so grateful that he’s allowed us to keep the school open, provided we meet certain conditions,”
he said. Those conditions included the renovations not being funded by the diocese.
Hostel history includes previous bailouts by the diocese that achieved little.
Mr Hahipene said the hostel trust board was now looking to provide suitable accommodation for 68 students by
the start of the 2016 school year. “By the start of 2017 we will be at full capacity, about 160,” he said.
“We are pretty thankful to the bishop giving us another opportunity to stay open.”
Mr Ngoungoumaui said they had a hard core of volunteers working consistently on the project and other people
coming and going for shorter periods.
Some of the volunteers are men from The Shed.
“Voluntary work so far I reckon equates to about $40,000 worth of work,” he said.
In a boys accommodation block, he indicated the shug windows. “A lot of these windows didn’t work, and now
they all work.
“And we have got old girls, wives, who have never had anything to do with the school but have come to help.”
If people aren’t physically able to front up, they are asked to donate what they can afford.
The project is well organised. A table holds a line of plastic trays with A4 sheets of paper. Each tray, Mr Ngoungoumaui explained, relates to a particular part of the refurbishment, with the various steps listed to complete that job. Volunteers know their trays and their jobs.
Each day begins with a karakia, followed with a message from Mr Hahipene about the work for the day. Meals for
the workers are provided in a kitchen on site.
“We are trying to do this on ‘air’,” Mr Ngoungoumaui said.
Fortunately, Bunnings was helping, and a contractor was redoing the tennis court and a driveway at no charge. The
trust was also getting good support from old boys.
“Now this is a school that is supposed to be a wreck,” Mr Ngoungoumaui said.
“You can tell them now it will be a match to any school for accommodation.”
Although there is still a lot to be done, the bedroom accommodation for students now looks comfortable and
The exterior of the buildings in the main block have been transformed.
A shower block, gym and the dining room are in line to be tackled shortly.