Some locals not supportive of overseas investment deal with school

By Dean Nathan

It's a rural school that's been saved from closure by overseas investment.  But locals at the former Te Tii School in Kerikeri aren't supportive of the agreement by the Overseas Investment Office allowing those investors to purchase lands here in New Zealand. 

It's a school that’s been saved by overseas investment with the flipside of the deal allowing those investors to buy land here.

Board Chair Donald Chandler says, “I think that's a very fair trade.  And in fact, the people that have purchased property here have made contributions to New Zealand in so many ways that go even beyond just this school. I myself am an overseas person in some sense and I think that some of us have a lot to offer New Zealand.”

Despite their support for the recent developments at their school, locals say they weren't aware of the agreement allowing the purchase of lands.

“No, I do not support them coming in and buying our land. It's our lands. I don't support that,” says Ringapoto Herewini Tipene.

Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis says, “That's the issue for our Ngāti Rēhia relatives who are concerned they may lose more of their lands and I hear what the elder is saying.  I don't want to see them lose land to overseas interests.”

Only three years ago the former TeTii School had only seven students.  Now under the new name Bay of Islands International Academy, the school roll has risen dramatically to 103 students and it also has a waiting list.

Chandler says, “It was a hundred percent by the book above board.  We helped these overseas people with their applications and described how that would be of benefit to the school and New Zealand generally and the OIO reviews that and approves it,”

Davis says, “The real issue is that if the school was being adequately funded by the government the people of Ngāti Rēhia would not need to rely on overseas investors to fund its recovery.”