Maungatautari dispute continues
The standoff between trustees and landowners over the Maungatautari sanctuary continued at a meeting last Thursday where a landowner described the feeling of another landowner as ‘‘hostile’’.
The reserve plan is in jeopardy after a group of landowners opposed to a proposed Treaty of Waitangi settlement handing the mountain back to iwi and its involvement in governance, locked their gates on staff and volunteers.
More than 50 people crammed into the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust meeting at the Waipa District Council offices where sanc- tuary volunteers and one landowning trustee pleaded with both sides to sort out the dispute which could put the project and ultimately, wildlife in jeopardy.
Ngati Koroki Kahukura representative trustee Tao Tauroa offered to discuss the treaty issue with landowners in the hope of alleviating concerns.
Landowners’ spokesman Peter Holmes said the group would likely take up that offer.
‘‘ The landowners have been very strong supporters of the project from the outset,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve tried to get some sense into the trust and been completely frustrated by [ trust chairman] Doug Arcus, who is not interested in listening to anybody.’’
But Mr Arcus told the meeting he was happy to meet anyone at anytime and that given the size of the Maungatautari organisation it was ‘‘ inevitable’’ not everyone would be happy with all decisions.
‘‘This is a large complex organisation and we went through a very thorough process over four months where all concerns were on the table including theirs [the landowners] – in the end the basis for governance was a negotiated and democratic decision,’’ he said.
Mr Holmes said landowners still had no legal protection through legal easements or access agreements and though they were not opposed to iwi being represented on the trust board they were opposed to mana whenua having such strong representation on the group at the expense of the community and landowners.
‘‘All we want is equal representation,’’ Mr Holmes said.
He said the rifts were too deep to be resolved without external independent mediation.
‘‘Maybe it should be made a national park,’’ he said. ‘‘We need Wellington to sort this out. We’re probably at that point because we have no faith in Doug Arcus.’’
Mr Arcus said the trust was now moving into a contingency phase. ‘‘If anything happens along the fenceline we will deal with it as best we can. Our primary objective is to keep the integrity of the fence,’’ he said.
The row prompted the resignation of project founder David Wallace which was accepted at last night’s meeting. Trustee Gordon Stephenson called Mr Wallace’s resignation the end of an era. ‘‘His vision has inspired all of us and will keep us going for decades yet,’’ he said.