It has been a long battle for a Far North whanau who for 10 years have fought to have their Orauta School land returned.

In 2005, the 30-pupil school was ordered to close by the Ministry of Education who said closing the school would save $400,000.

Former Board of Trustees chairman, Ken Brown, said whanau fought to keep the school open and battled to get back the land, which he said was donated to the Crown in 1940 under the Public Works Act for a native school.

Orauta School has been boarded up since it was closed in 2005 by the Ministry of Education, but new life could be breathed into it now it has been returned to the descendants of the original owners.
Orauta School has been boarded up since it was closed in 2005 by the Ministry of Education, but new life could be breathed into it now it has been returned to the descendants of the original owners.

Last month they won their battle when the Maori Land Court confirmed the Orauta School property, west of Moerewa, should be vested in the descendants of the original 13 owners, including Mr Brown.

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Mr Brown said he felt mixed emotions about the return of the land.

"It's relief and at the same time frustration. They closed our school and then in the end we get our land back, it confirms we were right. This has created a lot of divisions and arguments in the whanau because of this process."

He said the original owners of the land were Te Ahu Ahu Mangu and his 12 children and said having the land returned was about ensuring it was used for its original purpose.

"To me it wasn't about getting the land back. It was about running the school in the purpose which it was meant to be used for which was a native school. That land was donated as a native school," he said.

Brian Usherwood, deputy chief executive Crown Property, Land Information New Zealand, confirmed the land had been returned to the descendants of the original owners.

"On March 6, 2015 the Maori Land Court confirmed that the Orauta School property should be vested in the successors of the original 13 owners of Motatau 3L Block, from whom the land was originally acquired in 1940." Mr Brown said the descendants now add up to around 200 and said whanau were engaging in discussions over what to do now the land and the original school buildings had been returned.

"I would love to fulfil the reason the school was set up in the first place. I would love to see it run as a Maori school."