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Poto House future in doubt

Wairarapa’s only public boarding house could be back on the chopping block.

Poto College House Trust has announced it will disband when its lease expires at the end of the year, potentially marking the end for Wairarapa College’s century-old boarding house.

The trust told families and staff in a letter on Monday last week that 2023 would be its last year operating the hostel.

It’s deja vu for the boarding house, which faced imminent closure four years ago.

The trust was formed after Wairarapa College’s Board of Trustees announced its intention to close the hostel at the end of 2019. It raised enough money to take over the lease from the Ministry of Education and has been operating the hostel independently of the school since then.

House Trust chair Mike Higginbottom said the trust is disappointed to end its operations but said the community no longer needs the hostel like it once did.

He said the farming community – the hostel’s strongest client base – had changed in Wairarapa, and economic factors have contributed to families choosing schools closer to home that enable children to travel to and from school on a daily basis.

“The Trust wishes to thank the boarders, parents, and hostel staff, along with individuals and groups who have supported the hostel through donations, providing opportunities for fundraising and supporting the fundraisers,” he said.

Wairarapa College principal Matt White said the school board will meet later this month to discuss the future of Poto College House.

“It’s disappointing to hear the Trust will cease operations at the end of the year,” he said.

“They’ve done a great job operating the hostel over the past four years. Our school board will now discuss what the future holds for the hostel.”

Significant fundraising efforts, increased boarding fees, and multiple rounds of negotiations with the Ministry saw Poto College House narrowly avoid permanent closure in 2019.

At the time, parents were reportedly comfortable with swallowing the $12,500 annual fees – a jump of $2000 – and Higginbottom said close to $45,000 was raised from donations and fundraisers, noting that funding efforts would be an ongoing affair.

“Thanks for the support we’ve had so far, but we’ve still got a mountain to climb – we’re open for the next 50 years but we still need support.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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