Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 3 July 2014 Contents PAGE XX
3 July, 2014
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Blackmount School closes its doors for the
final time this week after serving the remote
western Southland community for more
than 100 years.
After 18 months of soul searching, in
February the school’s board of the trustees
reluctantly made the difficult decision to
work towards voluntary closure. In May the
Ministry of Education formally gazetted the
closure notice, effective on July 20.
The remaining three pupils officially finish
their term this Friday (July 4) but with one
pupil away on Thursday and Friday and
another spending a day at her new school,
a small get-together with parents was held
on Tuesday to reminisce, exchange gifts
and photo albums while everyone was still
Principal Linda Lewis said the children had
been preparing lunches every Thursday
throughout the past term so they cooked a
special lunch and invited parents along for
their own closing function on Tuesday.
The formal farewell for the wider community
will take place on July 19. Former pupils
have been invited to share a social get-
together before formal speeches and a
Mrs Lewis said the decision to close the
school had been very emotive and had
affected the wider community.
The school had always prided itself on
its high standard of education but social
opportunities and long-term sustainability
had to be balanced against that.
“We’ve been working through this for
18 months and it’s very hard for the
Mrs Lewis is feeling the closure as keenly
as anyone in the district. She has taught
at the school for 25 years, arriving as
the second teacher in 1989, appointed
principal in 1993 and going sole-charge in
1996 when the roll began to decline. She
and her family have lived in the district for
33 years and her two sons both attended
During her tenure the school has weathered
some tough times, top of which was the fire
on July 14, 1995, which caused classes
to be held in the adjacent community hall
while rebuilding was undertaken.
She said the reality that it was the end
of an era for her as well as the school
itself started to hit home this week when
messages and gifts began arriving.
“I’m finding it a bit hard,” she admitted.
“I’ve had lots of lovely messages.”
Mrs Lewis will stay on for at least a few
weeks as change manager to “wrap
everything up” on behalf of the Ministry
of Education. She plans to retire but hopes
to offer her services for occasional relief
teaching wherever she and her husband
decide to settle.
By Kirsty Macnicol
Hundreds wrapped up and
made themselves shine in
Te Anau last Friday night,
as the month-long Winter
Illuminations festival was
ushered in with fire and
For five minutes on Friday
evening the town centre
was plunged into darkness
before being spectacularly
lit with LEDs, glow sticks,
window displays, and
dozens of lanterns drifting
high across the lake.
But the thousands of
lights and lamp post
fixtures had to be
installed on the event’s
shoestring budget, which
happened again thanks
to the tireless work of
local electrician Ralph
Prior to last year’s inaugural festival,
organiser Jan Ludemann made contact with
Mr Pickering upon finding out he was from
Blackpool, a seaside town in Northwest
England that celebrates a huge annual
illuminations festival of its own.
“It’s massive. They spend millions
and millions of pounds on it every year,”
Mr Pickering said.
“People come from all over the UK to
go to the Blackpool Lights.”
He took six weeks off work for last year’s
preparations, finding suppliers, working
with the Southland District Council to make
the orders, and installing everything, from
private business displays to the central tree
which took three days’ work.
“The lights on the tree got struck by
lightning three weeks after they went up
(last year),” Mr Pickering said.
• Continued on Page 3
The sparky behind the lights
Te Anau electrician Ralph Pickering sorts through hundreds of
lights last week prior to installing them for the Winter Illuminations
PHOTO: Kara Matheson
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