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Govt rewards school squatters

Katherine Rich MP
National Party Education Spokeswoman

26 April 2007

Govt rewards school squatters

The Labour government is effectively turning a blind eye to the illegal occupation of two Taranaki schools by contemplating a free lease, says National's Education spokeswoman Katherine Rich.

Leaked Education Ministry documents show the Treaty Settlements Office is prepared to consider leasing the disused schools, Pihama and Te Kiri, at no cost to the squatters who claim the classrooms were built on confiscated land.

"These people have not only been given carte blanche to circumvent the well-established Treaty settlement process they have reportedly done some $23,000 worth of damage.

"Windows are broken, locks are smashed and one school's swimming pool is being used as a bath. Police have also received complaints of water and electricity theft.

"So what does the Government do? It considers rewarding this sort of behaviour with a free lease.

"The fact that serious consideration is being given to allowing this group the free use of the land is a disturbing precedent.

"The Ministry's put this in the 'too hard' basket, and in the process it's the taxpayer who will be forced to pick up the tab for the damage caused.

"This isn't about who legitimately owns the school, it's descended into an argument about how hard it might be to move those involved in the occupation.

"This precedent will prove to be a headache for the Ministry of Education when it come to the disposal of further education assets through the Treaty of Waitangi process."

ENDS

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