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New Zealand's smallest school back in business after five-year absence

The arrival of a family with school-age children has brought new life to a remote high country station in South Canterbury.

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The arrival of a family with school-age children has brought new life to a remote high country station. Source: Seven Sharp

The tiny school at Haldon Station, located 60 kilometres from Tekapo, had been empty for five years but now, the uniforms are back on and New Zealand's smallest school is back in business.

The four Graham siblings attend Haldon Station School – and they’re its only pupils.

Paige is the oldest, followed by Jack, then Madeline, and lucky last is Levi.

The siblings’ teacher is also their mum.

“It is hard ‘cause I'm always still Mum but I mean, you have to be strict to get them to do their school work,” Emma Graham told Seven Sharp.

The tiny school began life in town as a dental clinic after being set up by the Innes family in the 1970s.

The school opened and closed as farming families came and went, before losing government funding.

The school is now fully financially supported by the owners of Haldon Station with educational guidance from the Correspondence School.

Haldon Station manager Paddy Boyd says it’s here to stay.

“The station's owners, they see the value of this school 100 per cent,” he said.

“The school has always been a heart of the community ‘cause we are a community of our own here.”

Haldon Station is spread out across 22,000 hectares bordering Lake Benmore.

The area sees extreme weather conditions, going from 40 degree days in summer to -20 degrees in winter.

It's also dry, and the rainfall they receive in one year can fall in a single day across the Alps, on the other side of Aoraki Mt Cook, where the Grahams arrived from in October.

Emma said while she could teach her children by correspondence at home, she feels coming to school is cool.

“We're very lucky to have it here and it's so cool to be able to have it separate from home, be able to come to the school and the kids know that it's school when we're here, they're doing schoolwork.”