AUCKLAND, June 22 - Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has found that the process was mismanaged and resulted in a major loss of trust between the public and the Ministry of Education.
He recommended that the ministry and schools work more closely in future over closures and mergers.
After Boshier's report was released on Wednesday, the ministry apologised for its handling of the process.
The Canterbury Primary Principals' Association acknowledged the apology but president Marg Trotter says it's a case of wait and see as schools continue to deal with the impact of the earthquake.
"Canterbury schools continue to need extra support at a time when vital resources are being reduced," she said.
"The apology remains meaningless without positive action and real change."
In September 2012, in an announcement that shocked many in the community, the ministry said 13 schools would close and 18 others merged.
Trotter said Boshier's report mirrored the concerns of principals after that "bombshell" was dropped.
She said the affected schools had been braced for bad news, but were "completely blindsided" by then Education Minister Hekia Parata.
"Principals could not fathom the scale, scope and complete absence of consistency in the decision making," she said.
"There were schools slated for closure that had suffered no damage, had lost no students and were totally unprepared for such devastating news."