A school for a bottle of red
Oratia District School is unique in New Zealand in that it has a small side school with a special character of its own. On the Lone Kauri Road near Karekare Beach, Lone Kauri School is attached to the Oratia staffing schedule. It caters for about 30 students from Years 0 to 6, under the direction of teachers Meredith Blackman and Viv Mulgrew.
The classroom is nestled in a beautiful Waitakere bush garden, where bird and insect life is abundant. Children get to explore this wonderful garden during their morning tea and lunchtime breaks. The garden is also a wonderful source of language, science and art inspiration.
The school is key to our local identity and one of the few places in Karekare where the community gathers. It is a product of the participation and enthusiasm of local families and the community, as many in Karekare have been involved and contributed in some way over the years.
The idea for Lone Kauri School grew as the community expanded in the early 1970s. The ruggedness of the Piha Rd created isolation, but also pulled the community together.
The school opened in 1978 in a local barn with no electricity, one cold tap and a long-drop toilet. It was facilitated by a local teacher paid as a distance education supervisor with the Correspondence School/Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu.
In 1976, The Right Honorable Jonathan Hunt ONZ, a Karekare resident who had been a secondary teacher at Kelston Boys’ High School before entering parliament, had mentioned to a group of Karekare people that he would be happy to give an acre of his land to a local community school. His conditions were that it could not be seen from his residence, and the terms of the lease were that he would receive a bottle of good West Auckland red wine each year. There were other conditions of the peppercorn wine rental agreement, but the most important were that the school had to be open to all children in the Karekare area and had to be part of the state system.
Fundraising started in earnest to raise money to fund the building we have today. Much of the building work was done by the initial batch of parents, until a generous donation allowed builders to be employed.
From the beginning, parents had been trying to persuade the Auckland Education Board to take the school on. The building had, after all, been designed by their chief architect, a local resident. They looked at integration and at last discovered the concept of ‘side schools’. After lengthy negotiations, in 1983 the Auckland Education Board agreed that Lone Kauri would become a side school to Oratia District School, and appointed a permanent teacher.
The first teacher was Peter Buffet, who stayed for two years, followed by Bev Thompson, who started in the third term of 1986 and stayed until 2008. In 1995, Viv Mulgrew joined Bev as a teacher’s aid and relief teacher, and today teaches alongside head teacher Meredith Blackman.
When Jonathon Hunt sold up to go overseas in 2006, new landowners Arthur Grimes and Paula Tarrant continued the unusual rental agreement, and we thank them for continuing the generous offer.
Now the school buildings are maintained by the Lone Kauri Trust, which consists of all parents with a child currently enrolled at the school. Fundraising is a key component and lots of community support is necessary to keep the school building maintained. Within the new school, the tradition of an end-of-year concert and party was established very early, with Santa always paying a visit at the end.
The Lone Kauri parent community is very active and their major fundraising event is the famous Karekare Beach Races, which have been held 19 times over the past 27 years. You can see the NZ Herald‘s photos of the 2013 event here and other news coverage here and here. Following the event the school made this fabulous video to thank their supporters.