The Western Bay of Plenty has been settled by Maori for hundreds of years. In 1840 Bishop Pompallier landed on the shores of Tauranga and a Mission Station (dedicated to St Thomas Aquinas) was set up. In 1942 the Cluny sisters arrived and set up St Mary's Primary School, and this remained the only Catholic school in the Western Bay until the opening of St Thomas More school at Mt Maunganui in 1991.
For many years the Catholic community of the Western Bay of Plenty sought to have a Catholic secondary school based in Tauranga. From 2000 to 2003 an energetic and far-sighted Establishment Committee led by Dr and Mrs O'Connor worked long hours to plan such a college, and transform the plan into reality. The Ministry of Education has supported the concept of an Integrated Catholic Year 7-13 co-educational college and has allowed for a roll of 750.
The design and plan of the school by Chow Hill architects is superb. A 10.7 hectare site on Pyes Pa Road has been transformed with the building of the first four Blocks -Administration Block, Technology Block, Science Block and a Classroom Block (for Years 7,8), involving 25 teaching and allied spaces. The college opened at the start of 2003 with 312 students (and 18 teaching staff) and the roll has grown to 740 in 2008.
Another classroom block and Whare Wananga was built ready for 2005. A gymnasium was also completed at the beginning of 2007. We have a College to be proud of from Day 1. The spirit, involvement and challenge among staff and students is admirable, and was commended by the reviewers from the Education Review Office in their visit early in 2004.
The academic results in NCEA have been outstanding so far, with pass levels well above the mean for Decile 8-10 schools.
The college environment on 10.7 hectares includes:
- A chapel, which as a sacred space will allow for quiet reflection and class liturgies.
- A Technology Block catering for the design of projects on paper or computer - and the making of them using components in specialist areas for fabric, wood, metal, plastic, jewellery, bone, and foods. We will be able to cater for Information Communication Technology (ICT), Graphics, Food Technology, Materials Technology, Biotechnology, Music Drama and Art.
- A Science Block that has 3 purpose built Science laboratories for Chemistry, Physics and Biology.
- Superb networked computer facilities in two Computer laboratories, and in a number of classrooms and the library for student use.
- Beautifully landscaped grounds that include sports fields, walkways, paths, an environmental trail, trees, planting, and shade protection.
- An administration block including a well-resourced library.
- A Whare wananga or place of learning in our own College marae - Te Taumata.
- A purpose-built gymnasium with excellent teaching spaces, weights room, changing rooms, offices and hospitality spaces.
- Six netball courts/tennis courts.
In future we hope to build a auditorium, with associated spaces to be used as assembly hall, performing arts centre, and Mass centre, as well as the students services area.