A Site, in the small town of Tokoroa, located in the Central North Island, has just lost the most historically significant site in the Town.
The Site (The Former Tokoroa School, later Tokoroa East School), was the site which created the town which we now know as Tokoroa.
When the West family shifted down from Auckland for the fresh air, there was nothing there, but they were the first to Tokoroa with a long term view. There was a number of farmers from Canterbury and the Land Owner of the Time Robert Sloss (Sloss Road is named after this family), the terrain was tough, and it was not for the faint hearted, the farmers from Canterbury, were determined, and to make it more appealing for others, and with the request of Mr West falling on deaf ears at parliament, in fact Mr West was told that everyone will abandon the baron wasteland. The School, was planned, it is one of 2 sites originally earmarked for the town, the other a creamery. The School was actually built and opened prior to an approval from Government.
The site expanded, and then later on found itself on the wrong side of the main road, that the roll deteriorated and the request for the closure came from the school.
The process of the closure involved many, including Heritage NZ, which identified unique buildings, Buildings through the era’s of Pre, Inter, and Post war times, aswell as a very rare house designed by the first architecht of the first Labour government.
A heritage covenant was placed on the site protecting it, the fabric of it etc as a whole, Crown’s way for protecting the fabric was to board up some windows, put a temporary fence around, and to wipe their hands of the place, this isn’t in the best interest of the community, nor the site, and isn’t how the covenant was intended, I decided to nominate the site for inclusion into the Historic Places Register as a historically significant site.
The School was closed, and sat dormant for a while, a small group of Tokoroa Residents, came together to try and save the school for the community. Tracking down the Descendants of Mr Sloss, The land owner at the time the School was built. We had formulated an option, and ironically the team had located the descendants before the crown.
The original Giftors of the land, had been given an option to purchase the buildings, and the land (of which was originally donated) but had 30 days to accept the offer and come up with payment. This is no small feat for a small community group. The group actually had support from Heritage NZ, who had also advised they would assist in obtaining funding and grants for the restoration if we were successful in obtaining it, for the wider community to access as a whole.
Raukawa, hesitated for 5 years, knowing the site was decaying, they wanted the site for a cultural hub, but didn’t want the buildings as they didn’t fit with their history, and the history of the site most definitely didn’t sit with their history. In fact back shortly after the Treaty Claim was settled with Raukawa, the mayor at the time Neil Sinclair, had to publicly go on the record to state they had to support Raukawa’s attempt for the site, as otherwise Raukawa would up and leave and take their money with them to Horahora, this is absolutely ludacris, and shows their intentions, top that off with the digger demolishing the most historical site to the Town, after pleading with the government of the wrongdoings that may have been done to them in the past.
Sorry but enough is enough, “give an inch and they will take a mile” is the saying, and it can’t be any more further from the truth here. Raukawa have done absolutely what ever they can to get their own way, and who cares about whoever slaved over the lands, to make them workable and into the position where the Town is built now.
When Mr West arrived from Auckland, what was known as the Tokoroa Plains, were a desert, they where laid bare with pumice ash from the Taupo Eruption, with the odd bit of yellow tussock popping through, the work those early settlers had to pour into the region to get us to where we are today is not a small feat, to have the history of the site that created it taken away in the manner it has is utterly disgusting.
Several parties are at play here and should be held accountable here, the Crown (LINZ, or the Ministry of Education) as owners of the property, and their agents, of which a heritage covenant exists, and failed to adhere to that heritage covenant. Heritage New Zealand, for not enforcing the Heritage Covenant, and allowing for the demolition of a site when there was a Heritage Covenant and a Nomination for inclusion into the heritage register, Raukawa, for their handling of this situation, using their RFR to ultimately destroy the factual history of a town, and the process in which a Section 40 disposal falls upon.
Raukawa ended up purchasing the property in 2019, and in 2020 demolished the site. This shows the true intentions of Raukawa, which admittedly don’t look good for them, but trying to rewrite history and remove any history that doesn’t fit within your belief is just ludacris.
If the community members who were pushing to protect the site, had of been given the required time frames, which would of still been less than that which Raukawa took, then since the offer the crown had made to the descendants was infact more than the $290,000 paid by Raukawa the Tax payer would of still had 2 parcels of land to dispose of, more money in its pockets, less time taken to dispose of it, and the buildings would have been restored as per the heritage covenant. The way it has panned out makes no sense, it is like the whole process is setup to benefit Iwi at all costs to the wider community and the tax payer.
The community group at the time was made up of former pupils, former principles, Councillors, businessmen, and members of the wider community, there was mention of the possibility of a founders reserve could be created, where we could reflect on the early settler families such as the Wests, Sloss, Hale, and many more. An historic place to house the towns history (a fitting site), but ultimately it should of been a community hub, go back to its original roots, it was a social gathering place, a church, much more than just a school in its early days, these should of been able to go ahead on the site still in the buildings that were there.
I am likely to be rediculed somewhat for this article, but I am a realist, if I researched it and found it was Raukawa who had gifted the land it would have been a different story, but Tokoroa’s history doesn’t have alot of mention of the original founders such as Mr West, Mr Sloss, and the rest of the Canterbury Farmers which had involvement with the Canterbury Jockey Club. The work they put into the site was tremendous.
No words can describe the utter disbelief of the demolition of such a site, despite the heritage covenants, despite the nominations, and despite the people willing to protect the site, this is a very very sad day for Tokoroa.