“This was all sea here. They’ve reclaimed a lot of the land. The polytechnic was just a big pond, there was nothing here.”
– Ihakara Arthur, Ngāti Toa kaumātua
The official announcement of the establishment of a community college for Porirua was made by Minister of Education Russell Marshall on 30 May 1985. The news release noted that the new institution would take over the staff, programmes and buildings than currently operated in the Porirua area by Wellington Polytechnic and Petone Technical Institute, include the STEPS (School-Leavers Employment Preparation Scheme) and YPTP (Young Persons Training Programme) that were being run at Champion Street in Champion Street, and the Skills Centre in Prosser Street. Negotiations, it said, would soon begin to transfer the fifteen Wellington Polytechnic and Petone Technical Institute tutors to the new institution.
Minister Marshall stated that the Government in establishing the new institution had acted to meet the particular educational needs of the Porirua basin. "Travel and access difficulties have caused Porirua to grow without the benefit of good education services... Its citizens and young people deserve better, and they will now get it." He noted that "the starting point will be discussions with the community to set up a truly representative Community College Council, representing the educational needs of the whole Porirua basin."
After funding for the new polytechnic had been secured by Minister Marshall, plans for construction on the former mudflat beside Porirua Harbour were rapidly put in motion in June of 1985. The six-hectare area of land had been reclaimed by using fill from Housing New Zealand developments, the Todd Motors factory site and the Elsdon industrial area. Ngāti Toa owned the land and had expressed to the government that it should be used for the building of a community educational institution, pointing out that this would benefit the community as a whole.
The tapu was lifted from the site in a dawn ceremony led by Ngāti Toa kaumātua, including Wāra Katene, Patariki Te Rei, Māui Pomare, and Matua-a-iwi and Harata Solomon. MP for Kāpiti, Margaret Shields, turned the first sod, telling those in attendance that the ceremony was a momentous occasion and that the college was a hugely important development for the region.
What has been described as one of the fastest construction programmes in New Zealand educational history then got underway, though the work was carried out in less than ideal conditions. Whitireia builder Wally Clay was involved in the construction and said "we had to work up to our knees in the mud sometimes. Everyone was falling over. I wore out a few pairs of boots in those times because it was so wet." Fortunately, the original buildings were mostly prefabs and the construction crews were able to get them up fairly quickly despite the mud. "We started on the admin building... then we worked in modules around that block. They were just prefab buildings, which don't take a lot of thinking. You just put down foundations, put up frames, and then put everything else on... You could build these units faster and faster. We were putting them up in two weeks."
While much remained to be done in terms of development around the site, the necessary buildings were completed in time for the first enrolments in February 1986, when Parumoana Community College officially opened its doors to students.
Porirua is to get its own community college. Education Minister Russell Marshal told a special meeting of Porirua community leaders that the $1.7 million college would open its doors in February of next year. It would be built on a site bounded by Wineera Drive and Titahi Bay Road.
The college would take over courses run by the Wellington Polytechnic and Petone Technical Institute, as well as a secretarial course run on a site at Mana College, Mr Marshall said. The college was also expected to house a proposed nursing school being considered by Cabinet, as well as a bridging programme for Māori and Pacific Islanders wanting to take up nursing. "The programme will start next year, with an intake of 48 student nurses building up over three years to 144 fulltime students," he said.
Two Ngati Toa elders, Mr Patariki te Rei and Mr Wāra Katene, lifted the tapu from the proposed Porirua Community College site in a dawn ceremony today. The ceremony was attended by Kapiti MP Mrs Margaret Shields, Education Department representatives and Porirua community members.
The college site is on the corner of Wineera Drive and Titahi Bay Road. Now reclaimed land, it was once a periwinkle and pipi bed. Mr Rei, from Rotorua, said he regularly collected shellfish or 'pupu' there as a child.
Mrs Shields turned the first sod on the site and another Maori elder, Mr Maui Pomare, read a prayer. Mr Rei said it was customary to lift the tapu before a new undertaking, such as building a college, to appease the life essence in the soil. After the ceremony, the Regional Superintendent of Education, Mr Gerald Aitken, said the development of the college would happen quickly. Discussions were being held with all local communities to obtain their ideas and views about the form the college should take, he said.
Mrs Shields said the ceremony was a momentous occasion, and the college was a very important development for everyone.
The name Parumoana, meaning muddy waters, has been chosen for Porirua’s community college. Parumoana is on the upper foreshore of the southern end of Porirua Harbour and is a historic shellfishing area.
Three of the main administrators at Porirua’s new Parumoana Community College, below from left, Van-Long Truong, Noeline Bubendorfer and Turoa Royal, in front of the classrooms, are busily preparing for the first classes on February 10th.
Mr Truong, previously a maths teacher at Upper Hutt College, is the college’s foundation course supervisor and Mrs Bubendorfer, the registrar.
College Principal Mr Royal said administration and building are working to a very tight schedule. The college’s 48-student nursing course begins on February 10th 1986, as does the secretarial studies course.
Turoa Royal as Parumoana Principal
Te Awa-iti 27.09.1985
Turoa Royal, the present principal of Wellington High School and Community Institute, has been selected to be principal of the new Parumoana Community College in Porirua. Board of Governors Chairperson, Tino Meleisea made the announcement earlier. Mr Royal is expected to take up duties in mid-November.
The selection process included fifteen qualified nominees reduced to a shortlist of six who were interviewed and during the course of the final deliberations was reduced further to three applicants; Mr Royal was eventually elected unanimously.
Following a last-minute rush of application, there will be no shortage of students for the nursing school when Parumoana Community College opens next year.
Kapi-Mana News last week reported that the department was short of applicants when the official closing date was reached. The closing date was extended until the end of this week, and there are now more than twice as many applicants as places available, to the slight embarrassment of the nursing department head, Jeanette Page. She says inadequate advertising may have been responsible for the initial lack of response, but is pleased she will have plenty of potential students to choose from.
The teaching staff of the nursing department at Parumoana Community College. From left, Penny Smith, Eddie Smith, Margaret Southwick, Shirley Wilson, Jeanette Page and Sue Jamieson.
They all began their new jobs this month, starting on planning courses, although the three-year nursing course does not open until next February.
"Parumoana Community College must respond to the people," says principal Turoa Royal. "We’ve got to start off the right way so that everybody’s a winner, so that everyone says, 'that’s neat!'."
Shortly there will be requests for the community to say what they require in community education. Coupons in all the papers will invite readers to suggest courses, hours and possible tutors.
"For example, if a group requires a 12-week course on parenting, we’ll listen to their ideas," he said.
Heavy rain and umbrellas all round did not dampen the enthusiasm of the welcome extended to the principal of the new Parumoana Community College, Mr Turoa Royal at Porirua. Mr Royal was received on to the Takapūwāhia Marae by local Maori elders participating in welcoming the former Wellington High School principal to Porirua.
In a ceremony rich with emotion, new Parumoana Community College Principal, Turoa Royal, was welcomed on the Takapūwāhia Marae earlier this week. Kaumatua Waara Katene in welcoming Turoa Royal on behalf of the Ngāti Toa people said that the rain that was pouring down at the time signified the tears of joy of their ancestors at his return.
Accompanying the former Wellington High School Principal were two busloads of staff and students, who were welcomed onto the marae with Mr Royal.
Member of Parliament for Kāpiti, Margaret Shields, said, 'This is an occasion we in this area stretching from Waikanae to Tawa have been waiting for a long time. It was in fact proposed by the last Labour Government. However, the long wait may have been a blessing in disguise because a son of Toa Rangatira with such high mana was ready and selected for the job and this may not have been the case over a decade ago.'
Other dignitaries included the Deputy Mayor of Porirua, the Mayor of Tawa, elders of the Tangata Whenua, Chairman of the Community College Council and its members and staff, City Councillors and senior officers of the Department of Education.
Spokesperson of the Wellington High School Staff and Students, Ivan Heard, said that Turoa Royal had taken wilted totara when he first came to Wellington High. He had reshaped the college and its buildings and spirit and left strong growing totara with green leaves and strong branches. "He can do it again here in Porirua and that is our experience."
Turoa Royal who replied at the end of many speeches of welcome and waiata said, 'I am humbled by the warmth of your welcome and the privilege of returning to the place of my descendants of Ngati Toa and Ngati Raukawa. But it is also my function to serve all people within the college catchment area from Tawa in the south to Waikanae in the north.'
One of the highlights of the welcoming ceremony was the gift from the Wellington High School Samoan Community of a 'covenant mat.' This mat given by High School Board member Tala Cleverley was placed at the feet of Parumoana College Chairman Tino Meleisea that on behalf of the new Principal he safeguard it as a special covenant to the Rangatira of the College.