6 Oct 2016

East Coast community to get school land back

10:54 am on 6 October 2016
Waipiro Bay School

When the school closed down in 2013 the Office of Treaty Settlements set about establishing the details of the century old land transfer. Photo: Supplied

A prime piece of East Coast real estate is set to be returned to local Māori after having been in Crown hands for more than a century.

Waipiro Bay School began as a so-called Native School for Māori and ended 100 years later as a kura kaupapa for their decendants.

Wikitoria Tibble

Wikitoria Tibble remembers the stigma once attached to the school. Photo: Supplied

Kuia Wikitoria Tibble who attended the school as a child remembers the stigma attached to the name Native.

"I remember we had a sign just up by the marae there and it said Native School and I thought, 'one day I'm going to pinch that sign', and I went to to get that sign and some other beggar went and took it.

"I don't need the sign now," she said.

This week Mrs Tibble and her whānau are a step closer to having the land the school occupied handed back.

"We thought we were going to be there for the next at least five, 10 years ... I thought I'll be way retired by the time we get this back, so it has been an exciting time," Mrs Tibble said.

"You can see our marae clear from down there and the sea it's just down the road and we've even got a lagoon there and we used to swim when we were kids. It's a beautiful place."

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri Photo: Supplied

The Ministry of Education closed the school in 2013 and the hapū, Te Whānau o Iritekura, worked with local MP Meka Whaitiri to have the land returned.

Whānau always believed the land was gifted but, Ms Whaitiri said, they were originally told the Crown had bought the property and the hapū would have to buy it back at market rates.

She said records she had seen showed the payment was actually made for local people to clear the land. "So I said 'no I think that sounds like gifted to me'."

That view was upheld by the Māori Land Court which has said a transfer can take place after four months, to give time to inform descendants of the 200 original owners.

Waipiro Bay School

Photo: Supplied

There has been no resistance to Te Whānau o Iritekura having the title returned to them. The hapū has the support of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou, which under its treaty settlement agreement has the first right of refusal to any surplus Crown land.

The Waipiro Bay Whānau Trust has asked the ministry to retain the buildings on site.

The ministry has agreed and would work with the trust to ensure the school buildings were utilised, the site maintained and that the community could make use of the school building.