New Zealand’s newest school is taking shape in a rural corner of Taranaki – and despite despite charging students between $12,000 and $24,000 a year in fees, only six places remain unfilled.
With less than three months to go before Green School New Zealand opens its doors on a 120-acre site between New Plymouth and the seaside town of Oakura, managers say the huge construction project, the cost of which has not been revealed, is going to plan.

Work to build three large classroom ‘pods’ is almost finished, with a fourth to be built down by the Oakura river, while work to convert a barn into a cafe, car park and meditation deck is under way.

Leslie Medema, head of learning for Green School Support Office in New Zealand, said they were set to open by the start of the school year.

“It is right on track, which is shocking to some people,” she laughed.

It will operate on the ideals of sharing and caring for the environment through hands-on learning, and eventually cater to about 500 pupils, from preschoolers up to years 1 to 13.

However, when it opens in February the school will have a capacity of 55 students, with 49 of those places already taken.

Eight teaching positions have been filled, giving an initial teacher-student ratio of about 1:5, while two teacher aides are being hired.

Already 25,000 native trees have been planted on the site, with a further 25,000 to come.

“The campus itself is a conservation project,” Medema, who was the head of Green School Bali for a decade, said.

The classrooms are being built by New Plymouth-based Clelands Construction, and site foreman Heinrich Fourie said nothing was going to waste.

Fourie said on a large project such as this the skip bin would be emptied at least five times a week, but while building the Green School it had only been emptied three times in five months due to recycling and repurposing materials.

Workers were also recycling all of their lunch waste and leaving food scraps for the school’s pigs, he added.

“This school is changing the construction industry in New Plymouth.”

Radha Baird, the first Kiwi to graduate from Green School Bali, visited the site and was astounded by the campus taking shape.

Baird recently gained a Bachelor degree in English and history at the University of Auckland with straight As and has applied to get a graduate diploma in teaching.

She said she wasn’t a “green hippie child” while at the Green School, but had learned to be self-sufficient and independent.

Published by Stuff NZ – 4 December 2019