Natone Park opened in 1975. First as a side school to take the overflow of students from Corinna and Tairangi. Later as a school in its own right.
The Wellington Education Board (WEB) predicted the roll would drop after five years. Despite a restrictive zoning, the roll continued to hold.
Most of the children attending lived in the Waitangirua area. The majority in Kokiri Crescent, Niagara Street and the Westside of Warspite Avenue.
In 1983 WEB’s attempt to close the school was defeated by strong community opposition.
As a result of local community initiatives, a bi-lingual unit was set up (1985) with WEB approval.
As the WEB viewed the school as temporary, minimum maintenance was carried out over the 12 years of operation. The buildings and grounds were substandard.
On the eve of “Tomorrow Schools” WEB voted to close the school (Nov 1988) as the Education Department has refused finance to bring the school up to code requirements.
The School Committee actively campaigned to save the school. Public meetings were held, community surveys were undertaken and 100 people signed a parliamentary petition to have the school rebuilt. There was considerable media coverage and widespread community support.
The Prime Minister, David Lange visited the school and assured parents that the community would decide the school’s future.
The School Committee and members of the community prepared submissions for the Parliamentary Select Committee in May 1989. The Parliamentary Select Committee recommended the school be made permanent and upgraded.
With the advent of Tomorrows Schools, Natone parents elected their Board of Trustees and work began consulting the community over the School’s Charter.
In November 1989, the District Manager MOE, Mr Dick Grace, visited the school and announced that a Community Education Forum would be held before the end of the year to consult with the wider community on the various options.
Mr Harry Walker was appointed by the Ministry as Forum Convenor and consultation was carried out over December 1989/January 1990.
Natone Park School was the first school in NZ to hold a Community Education Forum. The convenor’s report recommended the school be granted permanent status and be rebuilt and given priority in terms of funding. The report was sent to the Ministry in January 1990.
Four months later, in May, the Minister of Education, Mr Phil Goff, granted the school permanent status and approved a plan to redevelop the school on the Natone Park site. The plan included the upgrading of the hall on the site, a new administration block and library, one new classroom, a new toilet block, an adventure playground and the relocation of the existing prefabricated rooms.
The architects, Hodley Budge and Olphert, were appointed by the project consultants, Education NZ and consultation with the Board began over the design June 1990. A plan approved by the Board, Community and staff was forwarded to the Ministry for approval in September 1990.
In 1991 the newly appointed Minister of Education, Dr Lockwood Smith, did not approve the Community Plan because the cost exceeded the budget. The architect drew up 16 plans or revisions. Ministerial financial constraints are severely limiting the materials, buildings and facilities. Met the budget (MOE) $825,000 and requirements of the Board. (June 1991)
Relationships between the Board and the Ministry’s property staff and consultants deteriorated. The Board engaged the services of Mr Peter Allen to facilitate the project.
Board of Trustees conceded that the plan to relocate the school on the Natone Park site was not feasible. $250,000 to the $825,000 budget would be required for site development and ground works, plus $100,000 to bring the hall up to an acceptable standard for school use. $475,000 was not a realistic figure to relocate and upgrade eight classrooms and build an administration block and library. In addition, the school would be sited in a damp excavation 15 feet below the league park on a site smaller than the existing school site.
The Board commissioned two concept plans for the existing school site form two architectural firms (Tetrad Design Group/SUE and Associates). The community approved Eric Sue’s plan although it was a massive compromise as it utilised existing buildings for teaching space, library and administration.
The Board organised a meeting with the Associate Minister of Education, Mr John Luxton, at Parliament (December 1991) in an effort to get approval and get the project underway.
Eric Sue, commissioned by the Ministry, drew up a plan with costings for the existing school site. The plan was approved by the community, children, staff and Board but rejected by the Ministry. The costing s exceeded the limit set in 1990. Three further plans were drawn up (April 1992).
Five temporary buildings were added to the eastern boundary in September 1992. Temporary walkways linking classrooms were needed because of the muddy conditions. Concrete was laid and give classes were relocated.
Eventually the MOE agreed to the plan with Luxton’s support. Greg Brown construction won the tender. Site construction began November 1992. The original Library (Room 4) was temporarily relocated to Room 1. The vacated classrooms were uplifted and repositioned in December. Classrooms 4 and 5, Classrooms 6 and 7. When classrooms 6 and 7 were completed, Rooms 8 and 9 were transferred and the vacated prefabs removed to what is now Classrooms 2 and 3.
In April 1993 two junior classes were moved to Classrooms 4 and 5.
The old library was uplifted and repositioned where Classroom 1 now is. The original caretaker’s room attached to the admin block was absorbed in a staffroom extension.
In June, the Porirua City Council and Natone Park School playground was officially opened. Asphalted areas were resurfaced.
After the July mid-term break the remaining five classes moved across to the remodelled rooms.
There was a considerable amount of finishing work particularly on the exterior. The admin area book room was painted and upgraded (Sept/Oct) using MOE financial assistance scheme.
The official completion ceremony was held on 1st October 1993. Maintenance items were not completed until January 1994.
The school funded the upgrading and painting of the Principal’s and Secretary’s offices.