The commissioner in a newsletter said she had scoured the documents at Rangiora High School for proof that the school held titles under ‘High School Reserves’ and the Education Lands Act, 1949.
She couldn’t, she declared, even find reference to these things.
They were a figment.
This only showed how errant the principal was she had suspended, gagged, and dismissed; and how right she had been to upend her.
The ministry was then to employ the best legal brains in the business and yes they could find such an act but whether and how it applied to Rangiora was all something of a mystery.
But why all the interest from the commissioner and ministry –why the rush to lawyers and asking about selling the land?
Not really a mystery is it?
In select committee, when the secretary of education and another senior ministry official were asked whether they were going to sell the Rangiora land the senior official said ‘no’ and the secretary said ‘we don’t know yet’.
Oh you have to laugh.
Meanwhile, do I have some news for you!
In fact, we have 20 pages of it from the Ombudsman all headed OIA and with a lovely reference number atop.
Namely OIA 997318.
What poetry in numerals.
For all those who have a commitment to justice be joyous.
It adds up to this:
Between 1884 and 1959 the Rangiora Board of Governors acquired five parcels of land including the Rangiora High School and land.
The Board, in that upright way that would have the governors saying good on you Peggy, gained its own statute, the Rangiora High Schools Act, 1881.
In 1964, all the titles were transferred through to the Christchurch Secondary Schools Council (CSSC).
Are you following me commissioner? Are you getting the drift?
The CSSC dissolved in 1989 with the titles moving to the Crown under the 1989 Education Act.
No – don’t get your hopes up commissioner; there’s more to come. And like any good story the best bit.
From 1990 through to 1995, the Board of Trustees battled with the ministry seeking what they considered the rightful return of ownership of all titles.
(Given what has happened at Rangiora, and the courage displayed by Peggy, I am truly moved by the essence of this story.)
Following considerable legal research, the Education Department advised the minister of education (Lockwood Smith) to acquiesce to the agitation of the Board and pass ownership of the titles back to the Board.
Are you still there commissioner? Are you following? Would a chart help?
The minister was advised that the titles be transferred as and for ‘High School Reserves’ under the provisions of the Education Lands Act, 1949 (there are they go again commissioner, the terms you couldn’t for the life of you find).
In explanation: the minister was informed that the titles comprising the nursery school and the bulk of the school farm were not included in the School Property Occupancy Document and had been self-supporting operations without any financial assistance from the Crown.
Peggy’s stand had been justified – a weaker principal might have crumpled – Peggy stood strong.
Mind you, after all, if she had participated in an illegal use of the titles, she would have been the main one to take the blame.
The fact is Peggy has a very good legal brain and is strong on financial management.
What a history going back 135 years and Peggy stood strong.
There is, of course, the matter of what the act says about using the land – it is not land for land, but land that can only be used or sold to continue to generate income for the school in a prescribed way.
Now commissioner, get out of the school and the community (and my life up here can it be said) and let Peggy get back to where she belongs: the proud principal of the estimable Rangiora High School.
Hekia’s land grab has been thwarted
Your credibility is shot commissioner.
And minister, what you have done is unforgivable.