Buy­ers eye Toko­roa school

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By PET­RICE TARRANT

Fears that Toko­roa East Pri­mary School will be sold pri­vately have sparked in­ter­est in its over­due dis­posal process.

The school, which is on four sep­a­rate ti­tles, has been in dis­posal un­der the Pub­lic Works Act 1981 since its clo­sure in April 2010.

The Crown no longer needs the land and is re­quired by law to first of­fer it back to the South Waikato Dis­trict Coun­cil for pub­lic use.

Mayor Neil Sin­clair said that when the of­fer came in May 2010 the coun­cil was in­ter­ested but once it re­alised all four ti­tles were un­der a Ngati Raukawa treaty claim it backed off.

He said the coun­cil wanted to work with Raukawa, not against them, par­tic­u­larly when it came to land own­er­ship.

‘‘I be­lieve they would pre­fer to have land than money . . . and their treaty set­tle­ment would al­low them to ob­tain the land.’’

In­for­ma­tion ob­tained through an Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act shows the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion is now of­fer­ing two of the ti­tles back to the orig­i­nal own­ers, New Zealand For­est Prod­ucts Ltd and Robert Sloss, or their suc­ces­sors.

Since none of the land was gifted, the of­fer will re­flect cur­rent mar­ket value for the land and build­ings.

The re­main­ing two ti­tles are ex­empt from the of­fer-back process.

If the land is not sold at this stage then treaty set­tle­ments will be con­sid­ered.

The Deed of Set­tle­ment signed be­tween the Crown and Raukawa in June 2012 says Raukawa will have first right of re­fusal to a num­ber of Crown ti­tles, in­clud­ing the Toko­roa East School site.

This will come into ef­fect if leg­is­la­tion passes, but it only had its first read­ing in Au­gust.

If any of the land is sold to suc­ces­sors dur­ing the of­fer-back process then Raukawa will have no claim on it, the min­istry says.

Peo­ple have tried un­suc­cess­fully to lease the ne­glected build­ings dur­ing the past three years, the lat­est be­ing Toko­roa res­i­dent Dy­lan Blair.

He said he was fear­ful the land would be un­avail­able to the pub­lic if sold to the iwi.

Mr Sin­clair said Raukawa had in­for­mally in­di­cated it would work with the coun­cil to build a cul­tural cen­tre if it ac­quired the land.

In April last year the mayor wrote to Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Hekia Parata sup­port­ing Raukawa’s claim.

He said: ‘‘ My coun­cil firmly be­lieves that any­body other than Raukawa tak­ing over the site would be detri­men­tal to the plan­ning that Raukawa and coun­cil see for the good of the South Waikato.’’

A Raukawa spokesper­son said that though a cul­tural cen­tre had not been ruled out, noth­ing was set in stone yet.

‘‘The pri­or­ity is to get the site back, then de­ci­sions on how it will be used can be made.’’

Robert Sloss, suc­ces­sor to the orig­i­nal Robert Sloss, is yet to see his of­fer but said he did not want to get caught up in an own­er­ship bat­tle with Raukawa.

Mr Sloss said he hoped the cul­tural cen­tre even­tu­ated.

‘‘ If it [ the cul­tural cen­tre] in­volved the whole com­mu­nity I wouldn’t have a prob­lem with it. That would cer­tainly in­clude the whole com­mu­nity and that’s ob­vi­ously what my great-grand­fa­ther wanted.’’

How­ever Mr Sin­clair said it should never have taken this long to re­solve the own­er­ship is­sues.

The va­cant site has cost tax­pay­ers more than $150,000 in main­te­nance and se­cu­rity.

‘‘ The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion needs to get its A into G and re­solve this long-stand­ing is­sue. Hope­fully with the re­newed com­mu­nity in­ter­est res­o­lu­tion is close,’’ Mr Sin­clair said.

The min­istry said the process had dragged on be­cause of the amount of re­search re­quired.

One ti­tle had 13 suc­ces­sors to be traced.

Head of ed­u­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture Kim Shan­non said let­ters of of­fer were be­ing sent to the suc­ces­sors, who would have 40 days to re­spond.

COM­MU­NITY GIVES: Sarah War­ren has walked 25 kilo­me­tres to at­tend a manda­tory Work and In­come ap­point­ment.

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