Local paper weighs into Rangiora debate reproducing ministry media release

But all is not lost because the editor is declared to be fair by everyone I spoke to, so I don’t think we have another Southland Times on our hands. The News referred to is the North Canterbury News.

The article:

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RHS not required to buy new farm — legal opinion  

By ROBYN BRISTOW `

The $7.7 million in the Rangiora High School coffers from the sale of 20 hectares — half the school’s farm — eight years ago does not have to be used to buy another farm.

Searches have revealed there are no caveats registered against the titles requiring funds from the sale of the land to be used to buy a new farm.

Rangiora High School commissioner Bev Moore in a letter to parents and caregivers, available on the School’s Website, says she sought information about the caveat from the school’s lawyer WynnWilliams.

A legal opinion from Annabel Sheppard showed no registered caveats on the land requiring the funds from the 2007 sale of a rezoned parcel of land, south of Kippenberger Avenue, to be used to buy a farm.

Mrs Moore says she also consulted the Ministry of Education and found it had no legal record of the caveat, but it had asked the school for documentation around the caveat on a number of occasions since 2012.

“While the existing farm and land-based studies continue to be a highly valued part of this school community and the school’s special identity, this means that the significant funds that the school holds are not legally tagged for spending on more farmland.

“However, I want to stress that this does not mean that they cannot be spent on a new farm,” she says.

The legal opinion from Annabel Sheppard, a partner in WynnWilliams Lawyers, also included an opinion from the Ministry of Education on how the proceeds of the farm land could be used.

The Ministry advised that section 11 of the Education Lands Act 1949 did not require the proceeds from the sale of the farm land to be used to buy a farm.

“The relevant purpose that is required to be maintained relates to the use of the investment income, not the specific activity carried out on the original — in this case farm — land.

“As the original land was held for the purpose of generating income for the benefit of Rangiora High School’s schooling operations, any replacement land – or replacement prescribed investment – should generate income for the benefit of Rangiora High School’s schooling operations,” the opinion says.

“For example, it could be commercial/ industrial land that generates rental income, as long as the income generated continues to be used for the benefit of Rangiora High School’s schooling operations,” says Ms Sheppard.

Mrs Moore says this means the school has some discretion over what it can spend its resources on to meet to “best meet the needs of its students.”

“If analysis shows that additional land would have education value for its students then this would be considered. Conversely, however, if it was felt that it was in the best interests of the students to have upgraded facilities or additional resources in other areas of the school then this would need to be considered too,” she says.

“Regardless I would like to reassure you that no decisions on the use of this multi-million dollar asset will be made over the next few months and that the funds will continue to earn interest in the School’s account with that interest supporting the school.

“Additionally no decisions will be made without full analysis of what would benefit current and future Rangiora High School students, which is what all decisions need to be tied to,” Mrs Moore, who was unable to be contacted by The News, says in her open letter.

Several former pupils are upset the school could put the proceeds into bricks and mortar rather than schooling students to work in the agricultural industry. They say procrastination by former boards has meant the $7.7 million would only buy half the farm it could of eight years ago.

————–

The News

Amberley Office

P O Box 86

Amberley

The Editor

Robyn Bristow

18 December 2015

Dear Ms Bristow

The media release from the ministry of education on which you based your article in the News, 17 December 2015, is seriously incorrect. It is assuredly a media release from the ministry as it is the reply I was anticipating in response to a posting from my website (the posting had an unprecedented readership). I have had years of battling the ministry and know its behaviour very well (and in some respects it me).

[This is the link to that posting:

https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/is-this-the-end-of-hekia-auditor-general-to-be-asked-to-investigate-rangiora-high-school-scandal/]

At superficial glance, it may not look as though the ministry is in difficulty over Rangiora, but it is. The case it made for a commissioner to be installed at Rangiora High School is pathetically weak. But from previous behaviour the ministry will sit in behind a wall of state propaganda, its 26 media advisers, unlimited financial resources, and an embedded commissioner (the principal having been sacked).

As a former senior inspector of schools, and someone well versed in the matter of commissioners, I can assure you there are and never have been grounds for bringing in a commissioner to Rangiora High School.

However, when I asked people about you they said you were fair, so I have some hope that Peggy Burrows will get fairer treatment from the local newspaper than Marlene Campbell received in Southland. What a shock to that paper when the Employment Court found in favour of the up-to-then terrible Marlene Campbell.

A further hope is that the Rangiora situation does not unfold in a long run of tribunal and court cases as occurred with Marlene Campbell. If you look back at the many postings on the Salford affair, all the things and situations I described, while scoffed at, at the time, were found to be true. But where did this leave Marlene Campbell, the children, and teachers of the school?

[The final posting on the Salford affair: https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/marlene-campbell-triumphs-in-judges-decision/]

The situation with the caveat is absurd. The lawyer mentioned by the ministry only a few months earlier made an exactly reverse finding. (I know the exact process by which the ministry put pressure on the lawyer to change her finding.)

In respect to the caveat, you need to know that the Auditor General has received a detailed request to investigate the caveat matter and context.

The following is some of the information contained in the request to the Auditor General:

  • Rangiora High School was opened in 1884 pursuant to the Rangiora High School Act 1881.  After 131 years of successful operation the school has amassed assets valued at over $12M.  These assets are protected under the Education Lands Act 1947 [High School Reserves].
  • The school purchased its first 5 acres in 1910 for the express purpose of providing agricultural courses for the students of Rangiora High School.  Further purchases were made by the school in 1912, 1926, 1930, 1949 and 1953, as courses were developed and the agricultural programmes grew for the students of the school.
  • The farm was not set up to be a source of income for the school.  All income derived from the land was applied for farm purposes and were invested back into the farm. In 1947 the school used profit from the farm to build a Farm House in Woodend Road, now 107 Kippenberger Avenue.
  • The land owned by Rangiora High School is subject to the provisions of The Education Lands Act 1949.  The caveat the Commissioner ‘can’t find’ certainly exists as it is inherent in this piece of legislation at section 11 of the Act: Application of proceeds of sale:

(1) All moneys arising from any such sale shall, after payment of the costs and expenses payable by the trustees in connection with the sale, be —

(a) expended in the purchase of other land held in fee simple in New Zealand, to be held as high school reserves for the same purposes as those on which the land sold was held.

  • In 2007 the school sold 20 of its 40 hectares due to the land being rezoned as residential.  The Board invested the $7.7M and as is required under the Educational Lands Act 1949 and looked to buy more land with a portion of the invested capital.  The remaining capital was to be invested so that the school could utilise the interest earned on that investment.  Board Minutes in 2011 will verify the Board’s intention here.
  • A letter dated 4 July 2014 to the Rangiora High School Board of Trustees, and held on the Board file, from Annabel Sheppard, Wynn Williams Lawyers alerts the Board to a ‘broadening’ of the ministry of education’s view around Section 11 of the Education Lands Act 1949.  With the dissolution of the Board in 25th February 2015, the appointment of a commissioner by the Ministry of education on 26th February 2015 and the suspension of the principal on 20 June 2015, we now find that Ms Sheppard’s opinion has now changed to reflect that of the ministry of education’s broader view.

You should know that the Kippenberger property is likely to be the first asset the ministry try to put up for sale. It is my calculation that the commissioner has spent the school’s available funds and needs that sale to pay for her commissioner costs.

It seems private schools can have particular assets, Maori tribal authorities, yet state schools not. What the ministry is saying in its media release is that after 131 years of school ownership of assets for agricultural education purposes, much of that time protected by a caveat in the Education Land Act 1949, it has found that all that was wrong and the assets should have been free for use for other purposes – other purposes that would clearly seem to be the responsibility of the government. What seems obvious is that without the caveat meaning like-for-like, there would be no assets to be discussing 131 years later; and without the caveat meaning that, there will be no assets to be left to discuss a few years hence.

And for acting to protect those assets for their properly assigned legal purposes the principal will be sacked and disgraced?

Note the trickiness of a section you quote from the media release: ‘If analysis shows the additional land would have education value for its students, then that would be considered. Conversely, however, if it was felt that it was in the best interests of the students to have upgraded facilities or additional resources in other areas of the school then this would need to be considered too.’

When the school year was over, the true purpose of a commissioner being imposed on the school was made clear. And who will be making the decision in the ‘best interests of the students’? Why the commissioner, of course, on behalf of the ministry. The outcome will be the assets gradually being eroded to pay for the commissioner, and ‘upgraded facilities’.

However, it isn’t going to happen because the caveat will be upheld, and unlike the declaration in your heading that ‘RHS not required to buy farm – legal opinion’, the school ‘will be required to buy farm – legal judgement’, and that will be that settled. The ministry, however, will be relentless and the principal will be dismissed and continue to be smeared (we hope not with the uncritical support of the local newspaper); only to be found unjustifiably dismissed after a long series of tribunal and court occurrences.

Surely, with the ministry so obviously in the wrong and the principal of Rangiora High School so obviously an innocent victim of some terrible ministry of education machinations, good people can act to short circuit this ghastly situation in the interests of the principal, children, teachers, and the wider Rangiora community.

Regards

Kelvin Smythe

networkonnet

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2 Responses to Local paper weighs into Rangiora debate reproducing ministry media release

  1. kellyned says:

    Staggering – what a hack job!!
    What must be done to get these things dealt with properly?
    What must we do to stop lazy journalism from just repeating versions of junk comment/news release?

  2. Tony Hamilton says:

    Very coherently outlined and explained. Congratulations Kelvin. Let us hope that the common sense of ordinary people in our country, and more particularly the Rangiora area, override the devious actions of a corrupt government. The decisions on the use of the money mentioned should not be taken unless it is by a properly elected Board of Trustees. The decision should certainly not be made by an obviously ‘not independent’ commissioner.

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