17 Sep 2018

Protestors occupying school will fight legal action

5:34 pm on 17 September 2018

Protesters occupying a closed Catholic school say they were given short notice of legal action to try and evict them.

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Photo: RNZ/Eden More.

Today the Auckland Diocese went to court seeking a trespass order against the protesters, who have refused to leave Hato Petera's Marae.

A group of about 30 are occupying the school's marae and the former dining room, saying the land was gifted to the Catholic Bishop of Auckland to educate Māori but the church has not upheld their end of the deal.

But the church said the land was gifted for the "education of children of both races" and also in a wider sense for the children of the poor and destitute.

Hato Petera Māori Catholic boarding school in Northcote officially closed last month, bringing an end to 90 years of education on the site.

Reti Boynton appeared in court today to answer legal action brought by the church, but outside court he took issue with the lack of time he'd had to prepare.

"On Wednesday a bunch of legal documents turned up that indicated they would have 25 days before their next court appearance. Two days after that - on Friday - a whole lot more paperwork requested them to turn up at court today.

"[We] had no time to seek legal advice, 4.45pm on Friday, we received this. You can't do much on a Saturday, you can't do much on a Sunday. Here we are 10 o'clock on Monday morning. It's kind of inconsiderate if you ask me.

"How are we going to put our point across by way of law, when we are being treated this way? It's basically really rude," he said.

Hori Tewhiu and Reti Boynton

Hori Tewhiu and Reti Boynton Photo: RNZ / Eden More

Mr Boynton said the group was seeking ownership of 14 acres on the site, part of the 376 acres that was originally gifted.

But church spokesperson Lyndsay Freer said protesters had ignored a number of requests to leave the site in the past fortnight.

"We claim the land was gifted to us back in the mid 1800s, so when they refused to go that was the reason for having the trespass notice served," she said.

Justice Muir deferred the hearing until next month to give protesters time to lodge an appeal.

Future Plans.

Mr Boyton said the land would be used for a kura kaupapa, a college and kuia, kaumatua flats on the site.

"We want this to actually educate people. We want to open it up for anyone and everyone that's willing to learn.

"It's not only for Maori ... because if you have a look around there's nothing being taught in this country about our native land owners, our native people here ... there's no education for the New Zealand Wars.

"So all those things need to be put into a parcel so it can be taught from young kids to teenage kids to adults and with kaumatua and kuia backing with them having flats there. So across the board it's all about education, is what we want for the place," he said.

But the Catholic church said its future plans for the site also centred around education.

"We intend to honour the purpose for which it was granted which is for education - whatever form that education takes. We've done that actually since we had it and we certainly intend to honour the deed to use the land and the facilities for the purposes of education," Ms Freer said.

She declined to comment further because of the court action.

Justice Muir has set down a hearing for next month.

Outside court, Mr Boynton said he wanted to stick to the spirit of the original agreement.

The future use of the land, gifted to the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Auckland Diocese, has yet to be decided.

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