South Otago Kindergarten Association (SOKA) community has voted unanimously to join He Whanau Manaaki Kindergarten Association, a Porirua based organisation that currently mainly operates across the lower North Island.
The vote was held on December 1 after a period of consultation with parents and stakeholders, South Otago Kindergartens manager Gillian Crawford said.
‘‘As an organisation we are really excited in becoming part of a forward thinking, proactive and innovative association that aligns perfectly with our vision and our values.
‘‘This is about doing what is best for our local communities, whanau, teaching teams and most of all our youngest citizens.’’
The move has been viewed with disappointment by Dunedin Kindergartens Inc general manager Christine Kerr, who expressed concern that options with geographically closer kindergarten associations who had ‘‘helped develop a teaching and learning philosophy [with] deep roots in the culture and values that are uniquely South Otago’’ had not been adequately explored.
Locally built and maintained kindergarten assets would now be commanded from ‘‘a centralised management team that are looking after a stable of 101 kindergartens largely located in Wellington city,’’ she said.
SOKA’s kindergartens include Balclutha, Goldfields (Lawrence), Milton, Rosebank and Poupoutunoa (Clinton).
Mrs Crawford said Kindergarten had been in New Zealand for about 150 years and was in the state sector with legislated regulations, requirements and funding.
Kindergarten attendance was dropping nationally and after a comprehensive information sharing process, SOKA voters unanimously agreed the northern merger was the way forward.
‘‘This is a future-focused decision to preserve Kindergartens by strengthening our voice and ensuring we continue to provide an amazing early childhood experience in our region now [and] for the next 150 years ahead.
‘‘It was heart-warming and reaffirming to see the Kindergarten communities backing the board with their vision for the future,’’ Mrs Crawford said.
SOKA will hold another extraordinary meeting on the January 25 to ratify the decision and work towards a merger date of April 3 next year.