Council Welcomes Government’s Decision
22 April 2004
N E W S R E L E A S E
Council Welcomes Government’s Decision on Waitara Leasehold Land
The New Plymouth District Council has welcomed the Government’s decision to purchase 146 hectares of council-owned leasehold land in Waitara, for use in a treaty settlement with Te Atiawa iwi.
However chief executive Rodger Kerr-Newell says the council will continue to advocate that the land should be in addition to the iwi’s settlement package, rather than comprising part of it.
Today (THURSDAY) Treaty Negotiations Minister Margaret Wilson announced that the Crown had agreed to buy the council’s leasehold land, at fair market value, on the condition that existing lease rights are protected in legislation and maintained into the future, and that the land is part of the $34 million treaty settlement package.
The Crown would wait for the outcome of the Waitara Leaseholders Association’s legal challenge before entering into a purchase, and it wanted the Te Atiawa settlement process to be completed within five years.
Mr Kerr-Newell says the Cabinet’s decision is great news.
“It means that New Plymouth District ratepayers won’t be left out of pocket, and leaseholders’ existing rights will be guaranteed.
“The council’s only point of difference is that we’d like the leasehold land to enhance the treaty settlement package – given the land’s significance to modern-day New Zealand – rather than be part of the package, so we’ll continue to advocate on behalf of Te Atiawa on that point.
“But Cabinet has been farsighted in agreeing to take up our proposal and it should be congratulated for its willingness to help the council resolve a longstanding issue. The Prime Minister, when she was elected, promised a true partnership with local government and this – at least in Taranaki – is confirmed by the progress that has been achieved.
“When the ownership of the council’s leasehold lands in Waitara is finally with Te Atiawa, a large step forward will have been made in improving the social and economic structures in Waitara and the wider Taranaki region,” says Mr Kerr-Newell.
The leasehold land has great national significance, as it was the Crown’s attempt in 1860 to purchase a large portion of what is modern-day Waitara which sparked the New Zealand Wars.
The council had considered whether to allow leaseholders to freehold their properties, or to return the land to tangata whenua, or to retain the status quo.
On March 30 this year the NPDC decided to return 146 hectares of council-owned leasehold land in Waitara to tangata whenua on a number of conditions, including that the existing rights of lessees were guaranteed, and the Crown purchase the land for use in its settlement with Te Atiawa.