The Turakina Māori Girls College property has been purchased by Te Runanga o Ngā Wairiki - Ngāti Apa for their administration and health services.
The college closed in 2016 due to multiple failures including financial difficulties and the school's declining roll.
The Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa spokesperson Pahia Turia says, "We are very happy, especially seeing the smiles on the faces of those who attended the announcement today. This is a significant day for us as Ngā Wairiki - Ngāti Apa."
Chairman of the Turakina Ngā Hara Trust, Wayne Te Kaawa told Te Kāea, “This land was always theirs. It was taken by the Crown and for the Presbyterian Church, we believe that land taken must be returned.”
Last month the property was advertised on TradeMe at a rateable value of $4.7mil. It's been reported that the location could be the ideal place for a second refugee center.
Turia says, “We must acknowledge the Turakina Ngā Hara Trust for their generosity and their consideration towards Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa during our negotiations about the property.”
The school first opened in 1905. Its closing in 2016 was met with protest by past students, staff and their families. Prior to negotiations with the iwi, the Turakina Ngā Hara Trust was given an offer of purchase on the grounds that the historic church and carvings be removed.
The offer was turned down by the trust. Te Kaawa says, “We didn't agree with that other offer. The best offer we were given was that of Ngāti Apa because of the conditions which were about the special character of the school and working together.”
New owners Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa say they will protect the special character of the property, keeping the church, taonga, and carvings.
The doors will also remain open to past students and staff to visit.
“The church is theirs as are the carvings and all of the taonga. I understand that one of their aspirations is to open a museum to hold all of the artifacts and keep our history alive,” says Te Kaawa.
The property will become the base for the iwi's administration and health services.
The official settlement date is the 6th of April.