Southern college changes ownership after 90 years

3 Redcastle at St Kevin's College (Best copy)


After some 90 years under the Christian Brothers’ umbrella, St Kevin’s College in Oamaru is to have a change of owner later this year. A set procedure has to be followed before ownership will be transferred to Bishop Michael Dooley and the Dunedin diocese.

The Christian Brothers’ involvement with Oamaru dates back to the 1920s when the order was invited by the Dunedin Bishop at the time to set up a school there. The college opened in 1927 as a Catholic boys’ boarding and day school.

The closure of Teschmakers, operated by the Dominican Sisters just south of Oamaru, saw the expansion of St Kevin’s into a co-educational school to accommodate both boarding and day female students in February, 1983.

A million dollar upgrade of the five-building hostel block is now underway, funded by the Christian Brothers. The college currently caters for about 80 boarders, but the upgrade could attract more. The school roll is about 450 currently with a 50:50 split between boys and girls. The maximum roll allowed under the Integration Act is 465.

The brothers’ direct involvement in the school began to diminish in the 1990s, while the order remained as proprietor. Br Joe Lauren was the last member of the order to be rector, finishing in 1996. After that, there have been
lay principals.

In 2002, the Christian Brothers handed the school to lay management. But, as the proprietors, the Christian Brothers appoint four representatives to the Board of Trustees and they have a duty to report to the order.

Changes in the leadership of the Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers in 2014 foreshadowed further changes in arrangements for the two New Zealand schools owned by the order. By 2017, investigations were underway, looking for the best solution to ensure the proprietor role could be maintained.

Br Bernard Gartland (Auckland), a member of the Oceania Province leadership team, noted that the brothers in New Zealand have an average age of 78.

A series of meetings and discussions throughout 2017 and 2018 eventually led to the conclusion that the best solution was to transfer proprietor status of St Kevin’s College to Dunedin diocese and of St Thomas of Canterbury College to Christchurch diocese.

The switch in ownership has to be approved by the Minister of Education and a formal Deed of Transfer has to be signed. St Kevin’s College principal Paul Olsen indicated that the intention was to celebrate the handover with a ritual at the college chapel on September 16.

Bishop Dooley observed that there would be no financial transaction involved as it would be a straightforward handover. “My view is that the school will run as it has done with the same management structure in place. There will be no discernible changes,” he said.

Bishop Dooley also stressed that “the Edmund Rice charism will continue as a key part of the school’s values”.

That aspect, linking back to the order’s founder, was something that the brothers had been particularly concerned to see maintained.

Dunedin diocese will take on responsibility for capital works maintenance as well as the collection of attendance dues.

There would be some extra administration, but all 28 Catholic schools in the diocese will be under one proprietor.

Bishop Dooley believed that Dunedin would be the only diocese in New Zealand where that was the case.

NZ Catholic Staff

Reader Interactions


  1. Greg says

    And some keep asking what does the Church do for youth?
    Well, here the Christian Brothers have dissipated themselves and even though there are few vocations to continue their professed mission they have still poured out another $1million to help upgrade the college and then gifted the whole asset.

  2. Lisa Donnelly says

    Hi Jeff
    I have Dillion’s from central Otago in my family tree – I read your article on Brian Vernon Dillion and if I could confirm with you his father was Thomas DILLON 1854 – 1939 who married Frances Lily MACKIN. Now I had Thomas with a different birthdate , born in Otago and son of James Cunningham DILLON and Anne LOUGHLAN. I think I may have the wrong parents for Thomas . Do you know who his parents were ( Stephen DILLON and Mary O’DEA? )and do you know if Thomas DILLON is related to James Cunningham DILLON? Two of J C DILLON’s sons married FENNESSY girls – my 2x gt aunts.
    Thanks so much
    Kind Regards
    Lisa Donnelly

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