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Hapū to consider updated NPDC Waitara Lands Bill

Hapū to consider updated NPDC Waitara Lands Bill

Otaraua and Manukorihi hapū are considering the details of the updated NPDC Waitara Lands Bill which enables leaseholders to purchase freehold their leased properties. There are 770 Waitara properties valued at approximately $90 million. If the Bill goes ahead, it could unlock that money for the benefit of the Waitara community.

The Bill was presented to hapū at Owae Marae in Waitara two years ago. Since then and after hundreds of hours of talks, this updated Bill is very different to the first version as it contains funds for the restoration of the Waitara River and a Hapū Land Fund to enable the hapū to acquire more land at Waitara.

If the hapū endorse the Bill, it will proceed to an NPDC Council meeting and then to Cabinet, followed by a final reading in Parliament.

NPDC acknowledges the land was confiscated before it was transferred to NPDC’s predecessor, the Waitara Borough Council, in 1941.

Mayor Neil Holdom says the Bill is not perfect but is the best way forward.

“We recognise the pain and hurt of the hapū at not having the land back. I was at Owae Marae for the Select Committee hearings and heard the heartache and sadness. But as the Council is bound by its financial obligations to all of its 80,000 residents, it meant that we couldn’t just give the land back, however unfair that seems. After the Treaty settlement process we had to find a new way to work through this problem and it’s this Bill. We are grateful that it has given us an opportunity to build relationships with members of the hapū. The hapū leaders have worked tirelessly over the last two years to get the best they could for their members. To that end we have created a fund to enable the hapū to purchase, manage or develop land at Waitara.

“After almost 30 years of talks, this Bill is not perfect but it presents a real opportunity for the hapū to create a strong foundation for the future. If it doesn’t proceed, it’ll be a lost opportunity for this generation to resolve this historic and complex matter for the benefit of Waitara. The Bill also creates certainty for leaseholders, who retain their perpetual rights to occupy under the conditions they signed up to when they purchased their leases. Leaseholders also have the right to purchase freehold title at market value. NPDC acknowledges the criticism from leaseholders that market value has risen significantly since the issue was first raised many years ago. However, like the situation for the hapū where they cannot get the confiscated land back, the Bill reflects the reality that NPDC has an obligation to all 80,000 people in the district and cannot legally sell publicly owned land below market value, no matter what the history.”

The Waitara River would benefit significantly from the Bill with the creation of a fund to improve the health of the catchment, Mr Holdom said.

“The people of Taranaki and New Zealand have expressed a strong desire to improve water quality in our rivers and streams. The focus on improving water quality in the Waitara River is something our children and grandchildren will one day thank us for. By working together with iwi, hapū, the Taranaki Regional Council, our farmers and the wider community we are excited about what could be achieved in improving the river.”

ENDS


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