Buyers eye Tokoroa school
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.