Old Patea Primary School to be torn down for new food and robot enterprise

old patea primary school

The defunct Patea Primary School is being demolished in coming weeks to make room for a new enterprise with a focus on innovative food and artificial intelligence.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, of Ngati Ruanui Holdings, a subsidiary of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust, said food growing labs and a research centre would be established on the Victoria St site.

“Some of it will be food that is grown in labs and in tunnels,” she said.

While the venture was largely under wraps, Ngarewa-Packer said its core would be growing and exporting fruit.

But the business would also work on coding and designing robots to complement the primary sector in conjunction with a joint venture the group has with horticulture entrepreneur Steve Saunders.

“We’re providing employment that’s going to be future-focussed, that encourages entrepreneurship and venturing into businesses that are going to be leading the way in the future.

“Our people are always the labourers and that needs to stop.”

The South Taranaki body has invested with Saunders’ company Miro Berries, which would come on board with the Patea business and mitigate start-up costs.

Ngarewa-Packer said total project costs for the iwi was about $250,000, which would largely cover the demolition and site excavation.

Extensive work to remove asbestos had begun and all buildings from the site, except a hall and a prefab block, would be torn down.

Demolition would start next week as would site excavation as the area needed to be flattened to house more buildings, or “domes”.

Ngarewa-Packer said phase one of the project should be complete within eight weeks and then custom-made domes from Auckland would begin to arrive.

She said the setup would be a matter of days.

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