Hapu¯ sup­port for Waitara lands bill

Taranaki Daily News - - News - Deena Coster deena.coster@stuff.co.nz

Hapu¯ have de­cided to back a draft law which will free up the sale of land once stolen from them by the Crown.

Ota­raua and Manuko­rihi dis­cussed the up­dated terms of the New Ply­mouth Dis­trict Coun­cil (Waitara Lands) Bill on Tues­day.

Yes­ter­day, Patsy Bodger of Manuko­rihi hapu¯ said it had de­cided to back the bill.

‘‘We’re ac­cept­ing the bill and we’re mov­ing for­ward,’’ she said.

When the bill was first in­tro­duced in Septem­ber, 2016, it faced wide­spread op­po­si­tion, in­clud­ing from the hapu¯ .

But on­go­ing dis­cus­sions be­tween the groups and coun­cil re­sulted in a rewrit­ing of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

‘‘We have worked hard to get where we are,’’ Bodger said.

Amend­ments in­clude the pro­vi­sions for the hapu¯ by way of the cre­ation of a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar land devel­op­ment fund, gifted parcels of land and co-gov­er­nance roles with coun­cil. The coun­cil had since been in­formed of its po­si­tion, Bodger said.

Bodger said the hapu¯ was still work­ing through is­sues with the coun­cil but on the face of it, the re­vised terms of the bill pro­vided it with new op­por­tu­ni­ties to buy and de­velop land along with the means to do restora­tion work on the Waitara river.

The main pur­pose of the bill is that it al­lows for 770 Waitara lease­hold prop­er­ties, which are cur­rently val­ued at $90 mil­lion, to be pur­chased free­hold at mar­ket value.

The whenua (land) at the heart of the draft leg­is­la­tion was orig­i­nally con­fis­cated in 1865 by the Crown from Te A¯ tiawa and the two hapu¯ .

If passed into law, the cur­rent lease­hold­ers will have the op­tion to pur­chase free­hold their leased prop­er­ties at mar­ket value.

This has been the ma­jor stick­ing point for those af­fected, as many have said they would not be able to af­ford to buy the land.

It is the money from the land sales which will be pumped di­rectly into the land devel­op­ment fund and en­vi­ron­men­tal projects.

This in­cludes $28m over 20 years to as­sist the two hapu¯ to buy, man­age or de­velop land in Waitara, along with a sim­i­lar amount for other projects. An­other $34m will also be tagged to Waitara River and other en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives.

The bill gifts 44 hectares of land to hapu¯ and the groups will also be given ti­tles to parks and re­serves, to­talling 13ha in size, if they want them.

How­ever, dis­af­fected lease­hold­ers are want­ing progress on the bill to be post­poned un­til the group’s con­cerns have been taken into ac­count.

Bill Simp­son launched a pe­ti­tion to garner com­mu­nity sup­port and he said part of its strat­egy was to seek an op­por­tu­nity to speak di­rectly to Govern­ment MPs on the is­sue.

Simp­son said there was on­go­ing op­po­si­tion to the bill and there would be con­tin­ued ef­forts to stall its progress.

With hapu¯ en­dorse­ment, the next step is for the bill to go back be­fore coun­cil ahead of the planned third and fi­nal read­ing, which could hap­pen at the end of Novem­ber or next month.

A fund to en­sure the health of the Waitara river has been mooted with the money from lease­hold land sales.

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