Park memo draft done
Whitireia Regional Park in Titahi Bay is almost signed and sealed after more than a decade of negotiations, politicking, conflicts and waiting for Maori to agree to allow small parts of the park, which they claim, to be included.
Councillors at the final Greater Wellington Regional Council meeting of the triennium were selfcongratulatory about the achievement of a draft memorandum of understanding with Ngati Toa to share management of the park in a new board of equal membership, with a Maori chair.
The park was originally part of a region-wide network of parks intended by the old regional water board and planning authorities in the late 1970s. Much of it was never reserved, and escaped through land deals at the time of the devolution of the old Lands and Survey Department in the 1980s Labour years.
The Makara area, now a wind farm, was also part of it.
Councillor Chris Laidlaw, chair of the regional sustainability committee, which oversees parks, said this had been a ‘‘ gleam in [ the committee’s] eye’’ for more than 10 years.
‘‘We were far-sighted and we should be celebrating.’’
The deal comes as Ngati Toa await the ink to dry on the settlement with the Crown of their Treaty of Waitangi claims.
Settlement terms which give Maori ‘‘cultural redress’’ are driving the park.
The park covers most of the Whitireia headland overlooking the entrance to Porirua Harbour, covering about 180 hectares, mostly owned or leased by the Department of Conservation.
It has been managed as a recreation reserve by GWRC for years, but funding and staffing issues between DOC and GWRC have reduced its maintenance.
GWRC will provide staff and limited funding.
Asked if he thought Porirua City Council would contribute funding, former regional councillor John Burke said he wouldn’t hold his breath.
PCC had once planned to re-zone part of the park for commercial recreation – plans that disappeared.
‘‘The park was first opened in 1981. The Labour Government turned us upside down.
‘‘Lands and Survey looked after the farms and reserves; DOC was never funded to do that,’’ Mr Burke said.
‘‘We’ve been holding on to Whitireia for 20 years and it has languished.’’
Porirua regional councillor Barbara Donaldson, who, along with Mr Burke, has been a tireless champion of the park, said, ‘‘I’m just really pleased that while it’s to be only an interim agreement, we’ve managed in this term to get to this stage.’’
The memorandum of understanding says the parties are committed to an enduring partnership based on co-operation, honesty and respect and meeting the aspirations of both parties, through the continued maintenance and development of the park as an ‘‘iconic cultural site’’ with recreational and environmental values.
Control and management will be in accordance with the Reserves Act, recognising Ngati Toa as mana whenua and the cultural and spiritual importance of the land to them.
The six-hectare block contains middens, ovens, pits and terraces.
The settlement and memorandum call for the six
Donaldson Porirua regional councillor hectares of Ngati Toa-claimed land on Onehunga Bay, and a further one hectare of land along the western cliffs proposed as an urupa, to be vested in the iwi.
Ngati Toa will initially allow its continued inclusion in the park as historic reserve.
But the redressed land may in future be removed from park management and to be used for other uses.
It also includes the vesting in Ngati Toa Rangatira of a 1.5 hectare area of Queen Elizabeth Park currently managed by GWRC, and the granting of a statutory acknowledgement of Ngati Toa’s historical interest, but not ownership or rights, in 65 hectares of Battle Hill Farm Forest Park.
GWRC says acknowledgement will have no adverse effect on the park.
The settlement includes a Roopu Tiaki, or joint management board, mooted for a number of years, replacing the Whitireia Park Board which will remain in existence until the Ngati Toa settlement is signed.
Three GWRC councillors and three iwi representatives will sit on the board.
The chair will not have a casting vote.
The current park management plan will remain in force until reviewed.
Repeated attempts were made to get comment from Ngati Toa representatives, but they did not respond.