An iwi has bought four Auckland schools in a $50 million-plus deal funded by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).
Te Kawerau ā Maki, a small iwi based at Ihumātao where protesters have occupied land planned for housing, has bought the land under Campbells Bay School on the North Shore and Waterview School, Matipo School and Henderson Primary School in West Auckland.
Te Kawerau Iwi Investment Trust chair Edward Ashby said the deal was worth between $50m and $60m and had been funded by ACC.
The Ministry of Education will lease back all four sites in perpetuity, paying rent to Te Kawerau ā Maki, which will use half of it to pay back its loan to ACC.
"ACC gets paid back over a 30-year period, and that means the loan is paid down and both parties are 50/50 in it," Ashby said.
He said nothing would change for the schools except that the iwi hoped to develop relationships with all of them.
"The response from our conversations with the principals and boards has been very positive," he said.
"They have been very interested to learn about the iwi and how we can help them understand the history that they sit on. We want to be able to help with part of the curriculum."
Only 150 people stated an affiliation to Te Kawerau ā Maki in the 2013 census - still the latest figure available because of the undercount of Māori in the 2018 census.
However, it is one of several iwi that have lived in the Auckland area since the 17th century, and its rohe or tribal area stretches from Mangawhai to Papakura.
A Treaty of Waitangi settlement signed in 2014 at Makaurau Marae at Ihumātao returned several sites to the iwi in West Auckland and provided that the land under the four schools would be available for the iwi to purchase for two years after the settlement date.
Ashby said it took longer than two years in practice to agree on the deal.
"The Crown has a number of schools across Auckland, but some schools they didn't put on the table, so it became a negotiation between the iwi and the Crown on what schools are potentially in the buy," he said.
But Waterview School board of trustees chair Margi Watson said the four schools were identified in the Deed of Settlement and she became aware of it several years ago.
The Waterview board has recently held a hui with Te Kawerau ā Maki and welcomed the new relationship.
"It's a significant milestone for our community and for Te Kawerau ā Maki," Watson said.
"It's really clear in the Education and Training Act, which was passed this year, that it is a requirement [for school boards] to commit to Te Tiriti. It's written into the act, and this is an opportunity for us to enable some of those partnership requirements to happen.
"It's the beginning of a relationship, and we look forward to it."
Henderson Primary School principal Tony Biddick said his school already had "a bit of a relationship"with Te Kawerau ā Maki, but the land deal would strengthen it.
"Te Kawerau ā Maki are the first people of this land. They are the mana whenua here," he said.
"This will be a fantastic opportunity for us to learn more about our place."
Te Kawerau ā Maki chair Te Warena Taua said the investment in the education sector "fits perfectly with our cultural aspirations and values".
"This historic agreement will help re-establish the footprint of Te Kawerau in our traditional rohe. It represents the ongoing regeneration and renaissance of our tribe."