Waitaki Boys' High School rector Paul Jackson contemplates
a major redevelopment of the school's farm for education
and as a commercial venture, including irrigation from the
Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company's by-wash race (right),
levelling of fields and new pasture (background), all next
to the school grounds (left background). Photo by David
Waitaki Boys' High School is returning to its roots with
a major investment to boost its agricultural courses.
Rector Paul Jackson sees it as one of the keys to increasing
the school roll.
''I want Waitaki Boys' to again be a school of farming
excellence,'' he said.
The school last week began the first stage with an investment
of about $60,000, virtually all raised through donations and
in-kind contributions, to irrigate its farm - about 16ha of
paddocks north and south of the school.
That will also have spin-offs for the rest of the school
grounds as, with further investment of up to $100,000,
irrigation water will be used on the school's sports grounds,
saving the expense of paying for filtered and treated water
from the Oamaru town supply.
In the past, Waitaki Boys' High was nationally recognised for
its agricultural curriculum, attracting boys from farming
families throughout the South Island. Part of that was
because of hands-on education on its own farm. In recent
times, while agriculture was part of its curriculum, it had
Mr Jackson's background was in agriculture when he left
school and he said that and tourism were the key to New
When he arrived last December, he identified agriculture as
one of the keys to the school's growth. He believes that has
already happened, there being 100 boarders this year compared
with 68 last year, and he puts some of that down to boosting
the agricultural curriculum.
''Our catchment is Oamaru, but to increase pupil numbers we
need to look outside that area. We are now getting pupils
again from our traditional areas, such as Southland, Central
Otago and as far away as North Canterbury,'' he said.
As the changes in the agricultural curriculum came into
effect - greater use of the farm and the appointment of an
agricultural science teacher - Mr Jackson predicted further
increases. The hostels are capable of taking up to 145
boarders. The school has a roll of about 500.
Changes in the school's approach to agriculture started with
the decision last year by the board of trustees to set up a
farm subcommittee, made up of farmers.
That was followed by appointing retired North Otago farmer
Trevor Meikle as farm manager.
The decision was also made to take back land leased to Lean
Meats and to run the farm as a profitable operation.
The new irrigation uses water flowing out to sea at the end
of the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company's scheme, pumping and
piping it to paddocks on both sides of the school and
installing a hi-tech spray irrigation system.
Land has been levelled ready for sowing in pasture and for
fencing, and covered stock pens have been built.
One paddock will not be irrigated to demonstrate dryland
The farm will run sheep and cattle for fattening, and produce
baleage - already it has a store from land before it was
levelled. The school also has access to a dairy farm near