Why this hapū is occupying a school abandoned 20 years ago

A school declared surplus by the Education Ministry in 2006 was meant to become public housing but the houses were never built.

Ngāti Hau uri (descendants) intend to occupy the property, “until such time as an acceptable resolution is reached.”

Descendants of Ngāti Hau are calling for the Crown to return a long-abandoned school to their hapū and take the cost of that return on the chin.

Tōwai Primary School in Northland was closed in 2005 and declared surplus to the Ministry of Education’s needs, with all students transferred to Maromāku School.

It was passed to Kāinga Ora, then named Housing New Zealand, which also declared the school surplus to its needs in 2010, and was later sold by the Crown to a private buyer, who has now listed it for sale.

“Hapū have suffered, and continue to suffer, significant losses as a direct result of unlawful actions of the Crown,” the hapū said in a statement to Te Ao Māori News this morning.

“Any costs the Crown may have incurred from landbanking the property for hapū would have been minuscule compared to the significant losses it has caused hapū.”

Ngāti Hau, a hapū (subtribe) of the Ngāpuhi iwi, asserts the Crown has caused further injustice by selling the school property privately.

“As partial redress for losses, Ngāti Hau uri (descendants) want the Crown to purchase the property from the owner at market value and return it to hapū at no cost.”

The statement also lays out the descendants’ intention to occupy the property, “until such time as an acceptable resolution is reached,” inviting whanaunga hapū and supporters to join them.