Hamilton diocese, in conjunction with St Thomas Aquinas parish in Tauranga, has bought a one hectare property adjacent to Aquinas College for $2.25 million.
The property is to be the location of a new Catholic primary school and church. The settlement date for the purchase will be in August, NZ Catholic has been told.
It is planned that the cost will be met equally by the diocese and the parish.
According to a statement from the parish, the population of Tauranga is projected to increase by up to 50 per cent in the next 25 years.
This suggests that “Mass attendance by Catholics could increase to at least 2000 each Sunday”.
“For some time, a committee of Church members has been assessing the needs of the Catholic population, and recently recommended the purchase of another church site in Tauranga city.”
The Diocesan Schools Office is “constantly assessing the future needs of Catholic education”.
The statement added: “With the phenomenal growth of Tauranga in recent years, and strong indicators for future growth in the Pyes Pa Tauriko area, this purchase is seen as a strategic acquisition which will allow for the needs of the Catholic Church in the future.”
Census figures indicate there is a significant Catholic population already in the Pyes Pa-Tauriko area, partly driven by families associated with Aquinas College, the parish noted.
St Mary’s Catholic School in Tauranga is near capacity and future development of that site is said to be “challenging”.
“A second school in Tauranga would alleviate the pressure on enrolments.”
St Mary Immaculate Church is also “operating at capacity” and is the only large church centre for the Catholic faith on the western side of Tauranga Harbour.
Hamilton diocese has already bought land in nearby Papamoa for a school and church. But this is not seen as easing the pressure on the Tauranga city parish and school.
NZ Catholic asked Tauranga parish priest Fr Mark Field about the likely time frame in which he thought a new school and church would be needed.
He replied, “school at least five years, church — part of a bigger discernment process — how best to meet the needs of a growing Catholic population and fewer priests”.
Currently the property has a private residence. Its fate is undetermined in the short term.
“The house on the property could be sold or rented,” Fr Field said.