Mossburn Primary School acting principal Ross Willcocks has come out of retirement to take the reins at the school. PHOTO HELEN MCFELIN
What is a retired principal to do? 

When Mossburn Primary School needed a hand, Ross Willcocks came out of retirement and headed back to the classroom as acting principal while the board of trustees recruited a new principal.

"[I] offered to help while the board goes through the appointment process.

"I am happy to be able to come back and support," he said.

Mr Willcocks is commuting from Dunedin and living with friends in Mossburn from Monday to Friday.

"It is an amazing place — I have a soft spot for the Mossburn community."

Mr Willcocks began his career as a principal in Mossburn in the 1980s.

When he and his wife were in Mossburn as a young couple with young children, the community was "super" and they "just enjoyed it", he said.

From there he headed further north for his career before returning for another three-year stint from 2019 to 2021.

Rural schools were finding it hard to attract and retain principals, and he described the situation as pretty dire.

"The role is so complex these days.

"You have financial management, property management, student management.

"It is incredibly difficult, not very well paid, you have a multitude of responsibilities not just in teaching."

Despite this, rural schools had much to recommend them, Mr Willcocks said.

"It’s a great learning environment often in fabulous supportive community."

 - On Monday, Mossburn Primary School board of trustees announced the appointment of Tracey Doak as the new principal, starting term 4.



Four great projects and initiatives from across the pro.vince are being celebrated as part of the Community Trust South Community Impact award at this year’s ILT Southland Sports Awards.

The four finalists represent waka ama, boxing, inclusive sport and a new facility creating greater opportunities in northern Southland.

The winners of all eight categories, including this year’s Active Southland Services to Sport recipients will be announced at the Ascot Park Hotel on June 9.

Community Trust Southland Community Impact award 2023 finalists:


A primary school’s disused swimming pool was turned into a quality indoor sports facility in Mossburn.
A dedicated effort by the Mossburn community has helped transform the local primary school’s disused swimming pool into a quality indoor sports facility for tamariki and locals alike.

More than 25 sponsors were involved in the building and maintenance of the facility.

The complex is now helping to create new opportunities in northern Southland and allowing cricket to flourish across the junior grades.

Full Southland Times article here

Full article here



Four Mossburn children have been honoured for their selflessness when they went above and beyond to help an injured teacher.

Harry Heenan, 10, Alex Mendoza, 10, Tawhiri Ralston, 10, and Indie Woodford, 9, stepped up when Whaea Tanya McDowall came off her e-bike at the far end of the school field, keeping her comfortable and going to get help.

McDowall wrote to Hato Hone St John to find out if they could formally thank them and the emergency service put them forward for ASB Super Saver Bravery Awards.

“These kids just sprang into action. They did all they needed to do. I’m extremely proud of them,” McDowall said.

The ASB Super Saver Bravery awards were launched in conjunction with the ASB St John in Schools programme and are given to children who display courage when helping someone during an emergency.

And that’s exactly what Harry, Alex, Tawhiri and Indie did eight weeks ago.

They were having Wheels Week at school, McDowall explained, when she decided to bring her e-bike.

She had pedalled across the field and was heading down a bank when she hit some long grass and came off, breaking her tibia.

 Tanya McDowall’s accident happened at the far end of Mossburn School’s field.
“I didn’t swear, but I was pretty sore,” McDowall said, joking that it was her body’s way of reminding her of her age.

Harry and Alex lifted the bike off her and helped her up, while Tawhiri ran back to school to call for help and Indie ran to get a chair to make her more comfortable.

“I would have been in trouble without you,” she said to the children.

The Fire Service had to cut deer fence beside where she was injured for the ambulance to get to her.

McDowall returned to work this week but in the meantime, Tawhiri, who lives in town, had been round at her place making sure she had enough firewood.

Hato Hone St John community education head Jacci Tatnell says every year the awards recognise more and more brave Super Savers who use their skills and confidence to help their friends or whānau.
The school is part of the ASB St John in Schools programme and McDowall said it was great to see how the children simply got on with helping her without panicking.

ASB commercial partnerships executive manager Mark Graham said it was important for young Kiwis to have the confidence to take action in an emergency.
“We’re proud of the impact the ASB St John in Schools programme has had on tamariki, equipping them with basic first-aid training and vital lifesaving skills.”

Hato Hone St John community education head Jacci Tatnell added: “We were delighted to award Harry, Alex, Tawhiri and Indie with their certificates and capes.”

In the past eight years, more than 94 per cent of schools across the motu had hosted an ASB St John in Schools session, creating a generation of young people equipped to respond to an emergency, she said.

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