LAND FOR EDUCATION
Over the years the Maori people have gifted many acres of valuable land to the Department of Education for the building of Maori schools. What happens to this land it it is no longer needed for a Maori school? This question is answered by the following authoritative statement from Mr K. I. Robertson, Officer for Maori Education.
In the olden days, it was a conditional requirement of the establishment of a Maori School that the people make available a suitable area for use as a school site. This requirement was designed to obviate the difficulties of obtaining title to Maori lands. Where it was difficult to contact all those with an interest, the land was taken by proclamation with consent and no compensation paid. In those cases where the land is no longer required for educational purposes, the question of disposal is adequately covered under the provision of Section 436 of the Maori Affairs Act, 1953, which gives the respective Minister the power to apply to the Court for the vesting of the land in those found by the Court to be justly entitled to an interest therein. Where a school site is no longer required, therefore, the present procedure is for the area to be handed over to the respective Commissioner of Crown Lands for action in terms of the 1953 Act.
Where, however, a school transfers from the control of the Department to an Education Board, the position is different, as the land is still required for educational purposes. This point was recognised by the Committee on Maori Education at its first meeting in 1955 when the following recommendation was made:—
“That where the Maori people have given the land on which the Maori school is situated and the school is to be handed over to an Education Board, either the land should at that stage be purchased from the Maoris, or if they prefer, they should be given a further assurance that, when the land is no longer required, it will be handed back to the Maori people.”
This recommendation was readily accepted by the departmental officers present and then by the Minister of Education. Several discussions have been necessary to iron out administrative detail with the Department of Lands and Survey and the Department of Maori Affairs.
The procedure now is that where a school transfers to Board control, a meeting of the donors or successors is required if the school site was donated. A meeting of owners is called and the alternatives put to the meeting, i.e. either—
That the area be purchased outright from the Maoris, or—
If they prefer, they be given a further assurance that when the land is no longer required for educational purposes it will be handed back to the Maori people.