The Tokoroa East School Site (known originally as Tokoroa School) was the defining site of the small rural town of Tokoroa in the early 1900's.
The School which was opened in 1915 Celebrated 100 Years thanks to a number of key volunteers. The School was an integral part of creating the Town, Robert Sloss (of Cheviot) and a few others came from the Canterbury Region to try and create something on what used to be Pumice Wastelands (Much like the Desert Road). At the same time Robert Henry West moved down from Auckland due to his health for a cleaner aired lifestyle to find it was a remote back country location back then.
He pushed government, for a School starting in 1912, however, the Auckland Education Board were reluctant. This was when Robert Sloss and the rest of the Canterbury Farmers seen an opportunity. If a School was created then there would be more interest in the waste land. The Canterbury Jockey Club was also involved in the creation of the town on the Tokoroa Number 1 Block.
This site was considered prior to this as "Poisoned Land"
According to Official School Records, in early 1915 the Auckland Education Board, finally gave Authority to erect a School of a Shelter Shed design 20 Feet by 16 Feet. This Shelter Shed designed School Building cost the community 135 Pounds, plus Fencing of 20 Pounds. This was completed prior to the Education Board allocating any funding for the site, and had been funded by the early members of the Community and the Property Developer. The Education Board then made a Grant of 35 Pounds for the School, and 20 Pounds for the provision of Furniture. In other words in a total cost of 175 pounds the Government only supplied 55 Pounds. the Community had to pick up the shortfall of funding. This was done on Gifted Land. In otherwords, the Community created the School, and received little back from the Government for doing it.
It is Important to note that the First School Bank account was opened on the 20th August 1917, and prior to this parents subscribed to the financing of School Materials.
By 1918 the School had grown, Tokoroa had grown and the community was in high spirits. That an application for another classroom was made late in 1917, this application for another classroom was originally declined. Mr Young MP for the area was asked to take up the matter with the Minister of Education.
In 1920 a New Classroom was approved, and built by Mr J. V. Johnston, of Tokoroa.
This secondary building still exists on the site, however, the Original Building of which the community had paid the majority for is long gone. Last known location was the Upper Atiamuri School, to setup a School in the Upper Atiamuri area. Upon inspection, it appears that it no longer exists there either.
There are other aspects to this School site which carry many heritage aspects, not just for the Tokoroa region but also for the Auckland Education Board. The site shows three different era's of classrooms on the one site. Starting at Pre-War, Inter-War, and Post-War design. The Teachers Residence built in 1936 is one of two built, it was the last designed by the Education Board, This house was designed by the Education Board of the First Labour Party Government (Under the power of Michael Joseph Savage. And is the last remaining specimen. (Extremely Rare and unique design with Double Sashed windows, and sole survivor)
The School acquired 2 extra land parcels and several other buildings over the years, including the community funded swimming pool (Now Gone)
The school closed in 2009 due to a declining role, this was the start of the Disposal process some 7 Years ago now. A Heritage covenant exists over the site to protect the heritage values of the Auckland District Education Board.
In 2014 an offer was made to the descendants of the original land owner, (Who by the records) not only gifted the land but the majority of the School building too, which was later, utilized to start another School in another location. This offer, included the cost of the land and Buildings, We didn't think it was fair on there part, and local Tokoroa Lawyer had assisted in the process. However the Descendants of Robert Sloss, were given only something like 20 or 30 days to Accept the offer or decline it. We think the offer was unfair to the descendants. The Descendants were interested in protecting the site, and acknowledging their relatives involvement in the Town. This would of allowed the site to be restored, protected and valued by all of community. Heritage status would of been increased in the site. But 20 or 30 Days for a few community members to organise the purchase of land and buildings (when the community effectively paid the majority for the buildings and gifted the land) there was not enough time.
Raukawa were offered the School site in 2015, and despite stating they want to represent the heritage of the community, are in a dispute and negotiation with Heritage New Zealand, to remove the Heritage Covenant. (Yes you heard correct). This is part of their RFR (Right of First Refusal) as part of their treaty settlement. They have had much longer to negotiate the purchase than anyone else to date. There appears one rule for Iwi, and one rule for everyone else.
Early in the Piece the Council was offered the site for "other use" Which they refused, the basis of this is because Raukawa advised council that if they weren't successful in obtaining the Tokoroa East School Site, and demolishing the site to turn it into their headquarters they would take their money and leave Tokoroa. This is absolutely absurd, and even more so that former Mayor, Neil Sinclair went along with it.
Raukawa, have done a fair bit for the community over the years, so this isn't taking away the work they do in the community, but Tokoroa's most Historical site is the Tokoroa East School site and they want to take it away from the community, when it could house numerous community services and hold the history of the Town Proud. The Council (South Waikato District Council) wan't to create an entrance to the Sports and Events grounds next door, on the Main State Highway 1. There is already an Entrance to the School, why not utilise this?
After all, we should be protecting the True Heritage, and celebrating it. Not bulldozing it.
The image below shows the first subdivision of Tokoroa, and is named after the Tokoroa Number 1 Block. (Click for a Larger Image)
If you would like to protect the Tokoroa East School Site, and think it is important to protect the site. You can nominate the School Site HERE
A Heritage Assesment and a Heritage Covenant already exist. You can find these (Which does make for good reading) HERE
Despite the Heritage Covenant, the site has fallen into a state of disrepair. This should be an asset for all of community to utilise not an eyesore.
Something is a miss here, Why would one party be allocated a short window of say 20 - 30 days but another party in the same process as long as they want. It isn't right considering what the community went through to start the School.
This isn't the first site to be abused under this process, and it certainly won't be the last.
I got off the phone to Darroch NZ (in charge of disposal process) earlier today, they said Raukawa want the site but only if Heritage Covenant is removed. Seems there is a stale mate. Raukawa want's to remove the heritage value of this site and the heritage aspects of it. Roger Bridge (National Party Chairman for Canterbury / Westland, and National Party Board Member) is a Director of Darroch NZ, Contracted by the Government to control the disposal of excess Government properties.
Published by D Blair, Hamilton