March 27, 2018

Bringing back a village

How one high school is helping give their region’s past a new future.

100 years of history is nothing to be sniffed at, and for Hauraki Plains College when the time came to celebrate their school’s centennial they wanted a project that would honour both the past and future of the school and the surrounding area.

After some discussion, it was decided students from the school’s building academy would help restore the original school, a one-room building known as the “dog box”. The project went to plan and Principal Ngaire Harris thought it was job done… turns out she was wrong.

“Not long after the dog box was restored we got a call from a former pupil who said there was an old building on his property and did we want it? It turned out to be the old post office, shortly afterward we got a call from a man who had the old jail on his property and was offering it up to us. We took on both these projects but quickly realised that the school couldn’t fund them alone”

That was where the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund came in — Ngaire says the fund’s help was crucial.

“The post office and jail had to be moved from their original sites to a place where we could restore them, once they were finished we moved them to the front of the school, then we also had to hire local tradespeople to help us out as there were some things the students could not do alone. It’s come at quite a cost and we’re really grateful to Fonterra for helping us out.”

The old jail house building.

Grass Roots Fund Manager Kane Silcock says the restoration of the buildings is a great example of how the fund can help bring communities together.

Hauraki Plains head boy Luke van Vliet was part of the group who helped restore the post office and says fixing up the damaged buildings was a team effort.

“For me, the best part was that this project really showed that when something needs to be done we can all pull together and get it finished. Before I started I had a vision of the small museum type village at the front of the school and I just thought that would be a really cool thing for students and locals to be able to enjoy.”

The school is now working on a plan to open the buildings up to locals and tourists, although Ngaire says the project isn’t over yet.

“Just a couple of weeks ago I got a call from someone who said we have the old telephone exchange on our farm, do you want it? All I could think was oh no, here we go again.”