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Controversial land offered back to owner

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013
Waimokoia residential school
Rose Cawley

NEW BEGINNING: All that remains of Waimokoia Residential School is a sign tacked up near the courts. The gates have been removed from the barren property and the grounds are littered with broken bottles, taggings and a rotting couch.

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The land at Thurston Place has been embroiled in controversy but a new beginning is on the horizon for the property.

A Ministry of Education spokesperson says the site of the former Waimokoia Residential School at Thurston Place in Bucklands Beach entered the disposal process last July.

The land was declared surplus because it was no longer being used for its original purpose, nor was it required for any other form of public works.

The residential school officially closed in 2010 after a long history of administration problems.

Following this there was a proposal to establish Thurston Place College which was to be a school for troubled youth.

This was axed early last year after community outcry.

A ministry spokesperson says the land is being offered back to the person who it was acquired off or the successor of that person.

"The property is currently in the offer-back process and too early in the disposal process to say if the land is going to be sold or redeveloped as it will be up to the end purchaser what they do with the site," the spokesperson says.

The ministry is still finding out the details of the past ownership history of the property. Eventually a Land Information New Zealand approved offer will be sent out to the former owner who will then have 40 working days to respond.

The land will also be subject to the Maori Protection Mechanism which protects specific Maori interest in surplus Crown-owned land.

The ministry spokesperson says because Bucklands Beach Intermediate, Pigeon Mountain Primary School and Waimokoia Residential School are all on one title the property will have to be subdivided.

Pigeon Mountain Primary board of trustees chairman Cameron Astill says it is great that the land has entered the disposal process.

"It is good news, it is the next logical step for it which means hopefully it will be turned into residential land.

"There are obviously different stages to the disposal process with whether it is going to turn residential or otherwise but the best outcome would be if it was turned into residential land," Mr Astill says.

He says there had been concern in the community over what would happen to the land and whether there would be another proposal like Thurston Place College.

After the decision to dispose of the land was made the gates and fences around the property were able to be removed as work to make the site safe could be undertaken.

"Now it is just another nice area for the public to use as a reserve until things happen," Mr Astill says.

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- Eastern Courier

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