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Taupo forest land returning to Maori landowners

The Crown is handing back the land underlying its largest Crown lease forest to its Maori landowners, the Lake Taupo Forest Trust, Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson and the Trust announced today.

The 31,000 hectares between Taupo and Turangi will be progressively handed back to the Trust as the first crop of trees is harvested, which will take up to 20 years. Some 3370 hectares has already been replanted following harvesting and will be handed back on 1 April.

It is Government policy to sell or transfer the Crown's interests in these leases to the Maori lessors, such as the Trust, on commercial terms.

The handover of the Taupo forest land follows an offer by the Trust to shorten the original 70-year lease. The Government has accepted the offer on advice that it reduces the Crown's investment exposure while producing no substantial difference in the expected book value of the asset.

"I am pleased we have a deal that makes commercial sense for the Government at the same time as it enables independent Maori management of a Maori resource, " Mr Hodgson said. "This arrangement is both fiscally prudent and a positive step for Maori economic development."

The agreed objectives of the 1969 lease agreement were to protect Lake Taupo waters and provide a reasonable investment return to the Trust and the Crown. The lease committed the Crown to investment in approximately two crop rotations. That has been reduced to one.

"The Trust and its shareholders have unanimously endorsed the transfer to the Trust of responsibility for future crop establishment,” said Tumu te Heuheu, Chairman of Lake Taupo Forest Trust.

“The change is consistent with the Trust’s corporate strategy and an appropriate celebration of the Trust’s commercial maturity and it’s optimism for forest investment in the new millennium. The environmental branding intrinsic to the forest will be maintained as a key long term business and marketing strategy.”

A ceremony to mark the occasion will take place at Waihi village, Lake Taupo on 30th March.

Contact: Graeme Speden, press secretary 04 471 9707 or 025 270 9055
George Asher, general manager Lake Taupo Forest Trust 07 386 8839

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