Final opinion on Taihape Area School’s complaint over its farm
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has recommended the Ministry of Education apologise to the Taihape Area School community and board of trustees over its handling of a farm that was bought by the former Taihape College and local community.
The farm was bought by the Taihape College board, with community help, from a local landowner in 1990, who offered it at a lower price with the intention that it become a teaching farm.
However, when the local schools were restructured in the mid-2000s closing the college and establishing the area school, the Ministry began the process of disposing of surplus school property, including the farm.
It had been previously understood that the farm would be reassigned to the Area School when it was established but this did not occur.
The Area School approached the Ministry in 2014 to discuss the farm’s ownership. It was unable to prove it owned the land and the Ministry disposed of the farm through Land Information New Zealand (Linz). The farm was then landbanked with Office of Treaty Settlements to be reserved for Treaty settlement claims.
When the Area School said it was still using the farm for educational purposes, the Ministry reviewed the matter and indicated that had it known it was still being used, it would not have disposed of the farm.
In 2018, the Ministry negotiated an agreement with Linz, as an interim measure, to ensure the school had ongoing, uninterrupted access to the farm while it remained in the landbank.
Mr Boshier formed a final opinion that the Ministry acted unreasonably in its decision to dispose of the farm through Linz and failure to reassign the farm to the Area School before disposing of it.
He recommended the Ministry apologise to the Area School community and the board over its handling of the matter. He also recommended it alter its practices to ensure such situations did not happen again, and commit to working with the board on options to ensure ongoing access to land to support the school’s agricultural programmes.
Read the full opinion here: