New Zealand / Education

School angry boarding house used for homeless

19:32 pm on 5 July 2017

Members of the Hato Petera College community are angry the Catholic Diocese of Auckland has allowed their boarding hostel to be occupied by the homeless.

Hato Petera College hostel building. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

The church closed the hostel to college students last year, and the Catholic Māori high school is still fighting to get its boarding facility back.

Housing and family support provider De Paul House has signed a two-year lease with the Catholic Church to house the homeless at the boarding facility.

But there are currently 30 tertiary students from the Auckland University of Technology using the hostel in Northcote.

Te Whānau o Hato Petara Trust chair Rudy Taylor said these students were being evicted just like the Hato Petera College students were last year.

He said they have had no choice but to file an injunction to stop the church.

"The Church does not support the future of Hato Petera despite parents and the community supporting it to stay open - they have taken that on board to say, 'we don't need education anymore'.

"I think it is time for us to say, 'sit down and talk, or let's go to court and argue those issues'."

Puti May-Louise Isaacs - a year 13 student at Hato Petera and former boarder - said she thought the church had given up on the school, which was struggling to retain staff as its roll plummets.

"They said that it wasn't a liveable area but they have homeless kids living in there so I don't understand that."

"They are just basically trying to shut the school down... well that's what it feels like for us."

Hato Pētera students. Photo: Supplied

Nearly 400 acres were granted to the Catholic Church in Auckland's North Shore in 1850 with the purpose of supporting Māori education on the site, and later the maintenance of Hato Petera.

A former member of Te Whānau o Hato Petera Trust, Shanan Halbert, said the Diocese had obligations under an existing lease with the school.

"This is about a greedy landlord, that is the bishop, who has got a better financial offer from De Paul House.

"Now I'm not sure how you have two leases all at once, but they are using two groups of vulnerable people and creating conflict amongst both of them."

Mr Halbert said the Church did not support a future for Hato Petera College despite the community fighting for it to remain open.

He said there were ways the Church could resolve these issues.

"The church needs to come clean about what their intentions are.

"There's plenty of land that accommodate both De Paul House and the needs of the school."

The Catholic Diocese of Auckland, which declined to be interviewed by RNZ News, said it was always a temporary agreement to accommodate students from AUT.

And it said no decision had been made on the hostel's future.

De Paul House confirmed the hostel would be used to house the homeless, but referred RNZ News back to the Catholic Diocese for further comment.

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