Whakatane GC Land Claim

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - NEWS -

Whakatane Golf Club is a

long es­tab­lished club in the eastern bay of plenty and is sur­rounded by rich her­itage and a long as­so­ci­a­tion with lo­cal iwi. Maori pa sites in the area date back to the first Poly­ne­sian set­tle­ments, es­ti­mated to have been around 1200 AD. Ac­cord­ing to Maori tradition Toi te Hu­atahi, later known as Toi Kairakau, landed at Whakatane, about AD 1150, in search of his grand­son, Wha­tonga.

One of the lo­cal Maori sub tribes , Ngai Tai­whakaea, claim the land that the club was built on was orig­i­nally con­fis­cated in the 19th cen­tury and the tribe have wanted it back since.

"We're no longer go­ing to sit silently. For a long time we just sat silently and just watched them play­ing golf and just let them play on our land," said Manuko­rihi Ta­rau, Ngai Tai­whakaea spokesman re­cently.

Whakatane Golf Club members then re­solved to sell 16 hectares of the course. The sub-tribe ar­gued it should get it for free be­cause after con­fis­ca­tion, the land was taken again in the 1920s un­der the Pub­lic Works Act.

"They're no longer us­ing it for that fact, I be­lieve it should be com­ing back to our hapu," Mr Ta­rau said.

How­ever, late last month there was a break­through when club members met to sort through the bids and to lis­ten to the his­tory.

"Yes, I think that the peo­ple felt that there was an in­jus­tice and that the meet­ing last night started to put some of that in­jus­tice to rights," said Bob Thomp­son of Whakatane Golf Club.

So the club struck a deal, with a Ngai Tai­whakaea land trust suc­cess­fully bid­ding for the land, but the price paid has not been re­vealed.

Of course, it's not the first protest over a golf course. Eva Rickard's fa­mous bat­tle for the Raglan course in the 1970s set off the cur­rent Wai­tangi Treaty set­tle­ment process.

This time, around forty years later, Maori and Pakeha have been able to sort it out peace­fully over the Whakatane land.

"It was nice to be able to work in har­mony with our neigh­bours," Mr Thomp­son said.

Mr Ta­rau said: "We don't think we should be pay­ing for land that be­longs to us. But at the end of the day, the ges­ture from trustees to buy it for us, we sup­port it."

But there's still a bump in the road to com­pro­mise. Pro­test­ers then be­gan tak­ing ac­tion over a re­lated dis­pute, block­ing ac­cess to land and a nearby beach.

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