Catholic College gets new bicultural entrance

Garin College

The new entranceway to Nelson’s Catholic College celebrates the school’s Māori and Christian heritage.

Built in a style reminiscent of an open-sided whare (house), the new entrance structure helps welcome people into Garin College’s wairua (soul).

It also protects the school’s “story and curriculum”, principal John Maguire says.

Bicultural story

That story began with the pōwhiri when the school opened in 2002.

The pōwhiri was held in exactly the same place where the new entranceway has been sited.

Today, the newly-opened entranceway serves a number of purposes, Maguire says.

It’s a shelter for students who like gathering there each morning.

But it also represents “an exciting step” in the school’s bi-cultural journey. Garin College’s communities are two-fold: educational and Catholic, Maguire explains.

Whakairo – Carving

The whakaaro (concepts) represented on the building’s facade are the fruit of bi-cultural research and consultation.

The school’s Māori protocols leader, Matua Simon Pimm, undertook some of this while the school consulted with the Catholic parish community on the design.

The result “spoke to” the Māori who first arrived in Aotearoa and to local Māori’s whakapapa and journey, Maguire says.

The symbolism continues within the structure, where four pou represent the Māori health model’s four cornerstones, Te Whare Tapa Whā’.

In the centre, imagery of “an Atua or God, Christ at the centre, and the Trinity – or the mystery if you like – for both Māori and Christian, in terms of the mystery of faith” Maguire says.

Inside the structure there are four panels, each named after the school’s house patrons.

That was a move to help students “reflect on the influence of those inspirational persons … in Catholic education,” Maguire says.

Garin College’s founding patron Father Antoine Garin, and Bishop Pompallier, the first Catholic missionary to arrive in New Zealand, are named on the panels.

The church Garin established in Nelson some 150 years ago, St Mary’s parish church, also features as a cut-out in the whare, Maguire says.

Other symbolism is encapsulated in the five boulders around the whare.

These represent the school’s five current values. Maguire says these are generosity, aroha (love), rangimarie (peace), integrity and new life.

They were designed to show the values are “rock solid”, Maguire says.


Funding for the new entranceway came from the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington.

The Archdiocese in turn received the funds by way of a property-upgrade package provided to state-ontegrated schools four years ago by the government.


Between now and 2025, Garin College’s building plans include four new classrooms and a multi-purpose area.

The $5.6m project is needed since the College is already nearing its capacity (670 students).

Next year’s roll of 635 is far larger than the roll of about 500 five years ago.


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