Orauta School site returned to rightful owners

By Dean Nathan

To Northland where the return this week of ancestral lands taken for the purpose of education is a momentous occasion.  In 2005 the Orauta School was closed by the Ministry of Education along with many other rural schools in the district.  This week the site was finally returned to its rightful owners.

Rosie Reihana says the return of the school site marks the realisation of a long-held aspiration, "How does it feel?  I'm overwhelmed.  It's been a long journey for me, very long.  I was 16 when my father told me to make sure that this whenua back to his whanau."

Meanwhile, elder Lou Tana was very emotional, "It's so important I can't express how I feel.  My heart cries for the love of our forbears who are resting peacefully but we remember them at this time."

Over four acres were taken under the public works act in 1940 for the purpose of building a school.  But there was controversy and high public interest back in 2005 over the closure of Orauta School and many other rural schools in the district by the Ministry of Education. 

Lou Tana says, “I'm overjoyed at the return of the land via the Maori Land Court this week and I acknowledge the family who have managed to have it turned into a reservation.  And so there will be numerous meetings of the Ngati Te Ara hapu to determine the future of the school."

The parent land block was owned by Te Ahuahu Mangu and his wife Heeni Whetu Mangu (nee) Whiu who partitioned it amongst their numerous children prior the school being taken.  Now the beneficial owners are planning how it will be used into the future.

Rosie Reihana says, "First things first.  Get the whare up and running, that's the first thing, so money's got to come from somewhere- so we all can get in there and help.  And then let's have a look at work, fun stuff, camping, learning things and more fun.  Y'know, it's beautiful."