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Trust wants Waipiro Bay school returned

WAIPIRO Bay Whanau Charitable Trust and Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou are working together to have the land and four classes of their former school returned to the community.

The trust believes the land was given to the Government for educational purposes and now wants the property returned at no charge.

The co-ed Maori language immersion school, which catered for student from year 1 to 8, closed in 2013 because there were only four students. The school is now under the jurisdiction of Land Information New Zealand for land bank disposal purposes.

Labour’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said the Crown appeared to dispute that the land was a gift. If the Crown “held fast”, the runanga, under the Treaty of Waitangi, was entitled to the first right of refusal to negotiate a purchase price. Ms Whaitiri considers that possibility a fall-back position.

The trustees, descendants of those who gave the land to the Crown, still wanted the land and building gifted back at no charge, she said.

“Our foot is in the door.”

Ms Whaitiri said there had previously been some kind of “miscommunication” or wrongful information provided and she was incorrect when stating the runanga was not interested in the site. She apologised for that.

The trust, a legal entity, was formed on advice from the Ministry of Education and trustees have been maintaining the building, mowing the lawns and have made the property secure.

They want to create a community facility suitable for activities such as ante-natal classes and anti-violence programmes.

Residents of Waipiro Bay told the Herald a school had been on the site since about the 1930s.

Waipiro Bay School. File picture