Momentum is gathering as the Hawea district rallies to save the 140-year-old Hawea Flat School.
    The Ministry of Education is still negotiating for a suitable Lake Hawea township site to acquire under the Public Works Act and has previously said it is too soon to engage with the community over plans to relocate the semi-rural Hawea Flat school within the next 10 years.
    Although the ministry is not ready to talk about it, community members got the ball rolling at a community meeting last week.
    The meeting suggested long-term population growth would eventually require two schools, so Hawea Flat School should stay where it is and the ministry could build a second school in the town.
    Meeting organiser and school parent Anna van Riel this week began circulating a short survey of community thoughts on future schooling for the district. It closes on Friday, July 8.
    She is also urging residents to write personal letters to Education Minister Chris Hipkins sharing their views, and she has sent an Official Information Act request to the Ministry of Education.
    At last week’s meeting, she and the Shaping Our Futures co-ordinator, John Glover, asked people to identify thoughts and feelings about the proposal and come up with a list of questions to ask the ministry.
    ‘‘Thank you to everyone who turned up [to last week’s meeting] in person and via Zoom. The vibe was fantastic and it was great to start gauging some community perspective on the proposed school in the township,’’ Ms van Riel said.
    The ministry has previously said two schools are not an option. It is planning just one.
    It has stopped this year’s permanent classroom development at Hawea Flat, although eight new portable classrooms would be delivered to cater for expected roll growth in the next decade.
    Mr Glover said in a report after last week’s meeting the ministry was ‘‘significantly harming the mental, cultural and societal wellbeing of the community’’.
    ‘‘The shock decision from the ministry comes after years of staff and volunteer board time and costs to plan the upgrade to the school at the Flat.’’
    The community had emotionally invested in upgrading and securing Hawea Flat school and the ‘‘unilateral, heavy-handed and unreasonable process’’ had ‘‘alienated, disenfranchised and demoralised’’ the school community, Mr Glover said in his report.
    The meeting has recommended the Queenstown Lakes District Council, Otago Regional Council and Ministry of Education ‘‘agree a set of reliable, up-to-date growth figures to enable schooling to be properly planned’’.
    The Hawea Flat School site was originally gifted for education purposes, and it is not known yet if any covenants were associated with that gift.
    Two QLDC district plan category 3 heritage buildings — the former Hawea Flat post office and an old school building from Maungawera — are on the site, underpinning the sense of place and value of the site to the community, Mr Glover said.