School given more time to oppose closure

Managers of the tiny Orauta School in Northland, fighting a Ministry of Education move to close it down, have been given more time to prepare their case.

Three managers of the unregistered school near Moerewa attended a short summary judgement in Kaikohe District Court yesterday after the Crown Law Office sought to get the school off property claimed by the ministry.

The ministry ordered the school of about 40 pupils to close at the beginning of the year but its management defied the order, saying Maori have a right to determine their own matters.

Those involved with the school contend the land was taken under the Public Works Act early last century to build the school but was required to be offered back to its original owners. They say local Maori were the original owners of the Orauta School land.

The three managers, Ken Brown, the school's board of trustees chairman, his wife Teena Brown and Kene Martin, the school's principal, have been given until August 10 to get more information the school wants for its case and a hearing has been set for August 26.

Despite the defendants turning up more than an hour late for their court appearance, their case was heard as criminal cases in the court had run over time.

About 15 supporters walked with Mr and Mrs Brown and Mrs Martin when they turned up about 3.35pm.

Mr Brown said earlier he and school supporters wanted the court to hold a powhiri but the court rejected the offer.

In court, Crown prosecutor Kim Thomas told Judge Celia Rushton the ministry was concerned about the quality of education Orauta School children were receiving.

Mr Thomas said Mrs Martin was not eligible to continue living in the ministry-owned school house and the ministry wanted her out.

Mr Brown told Judge Rushton the school wanted to give further affidavits. Judge Rushton then gave him three weeks to get the information for the affidavits.

In a separate court case against managers and parents of Orauta School, managers are facing a fine up to $200 per day for running an illegal school and parents up to $1000 for sending their children to an unregistered school.

Court appearances have been set for tomorrow and Tuesday in Kaikohe District Court.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE (WHANGAREI)

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