A Rotorua school has been singled out by the Office of the Auditor-General for spending almost $700,000 on a school trip to Hawaii.
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Ruamata spent $695,511 on last year's trip, of which only $37,667 came from those attending.
In total, the kura funded a trip to Hawaii for all 139 students, 21 teachers, and 73 caregivers.
The Office of the Auditor-General considered it “unusual for a school to spend this amount of money on a trip of this nature”.
School principal Cathy Dewes says a greater proportion of the money was raised by the school than merely the figure mentioned in the report.
“That figure is somewhat misleading, because we've been planning and fundraising by various means for about 10 years now. So that $37,000 was just one year's contributions.
“We've met with the ministry and showed them evidence of how the funds were accumulated. They seemed satisfied with the evidence we provided.”
However, a proportion of the funds did come from the government, although the school would not specify how much.
Cathy says the school has made savings over the years by using volunteers to performing duties such as cleaning.
The savings are then channelled into other ventures, such as the Hawaii trip.
In regards to the educational value of such a trip, Cathy says it's part of researching the heritage of their students, who are predominately Maori.
“It's part of our policy to provide an overseas experience for our students. It's an essential part of our curriculum to retrace the footsteps of our ancestors.”
The Office of the Auditor-General also questioned a loan of $311,000 made to a trust (of which the principal is a trustee) “in breach of section 73 of the Education Act 1989”.
Cathy says legal advice has been sought over that matter.
“A loan was made to our parent body to get them through a financial hump. It was all transparent and above board, and approved by our whanau and governance procedures. The loan will be repaid.
“We still have a healthy cash reserve of somewhere in excess $500,000. It was raised by our auditor as a post-year event worth noting. The Education Act doesn't contemplate this kind of action, which was why the auditor raised it.”