With the demise of Māori boarding schools, the new principal at Hato Paora College has a personal stake in the school’s survival.
Former student Nathan Matthews has returned to his old stomping ground to lead the school.
“We considered ourselves to be the teina (youngest) of Māori boarding schools. Unfortunately, some of our tuakana (elders) are no longer running. We’ve lost Tipene, Queen Victoria, Turakina. Hato Petera's almost there,” he says.
“There’s a weight of expectation when you put your hand up for a role just like this.”
Hato Paora Trust Board chair Tata Lawton says there was a risk that Hato Paora could meet the same fate as other Māori boarding schools. He said that appointing Matthews helped save Hato Paora.
“Unless we got a good leader, a good role model, we would have struggled to actually attract people. This is not a step up for Nathan. This is Nathan coming back to give.”
Matthews started his studies in 1988. After five years, he attended Otago University and gained a PhD. He’s since worked in education, establishing a charter school in Whangarei with his wife Robyn.
His two sons attend Hato Paora and his eldest son Caleb is currently head boy.
“Our motto is 'Whaia te Tika', pursue what is right. I want a school that is founded on that whakaaro and is preparing young Māori men for the modern world.”