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Council set to right century-old land grievance

Council set to right century-old land grievance

Rotorua Lakes Council has today moved to remedy a long-standing iwi grievance over confiscated land on the eastern shore of Lake Rotoiti. The strip of land is part of a parcel of land taken from Ngāti Tamateatutahi by the Crown 118 years ago.

At a meeting of the council’s Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee this morning [16 September 2015] committee members recommended the council commence a process to ‘stop’ Tamatea Street as a public road.

‘Stopping’ Tamatea Street would allow Ngāti Tamateatutahi’s Tamatea Trust to apply to the Maori Land Court under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 for a ‘roadway order,’ which would effectively return the land to its original owners. Becoming a legal roadway would confer the same rights on users as if it were still a public road.

In 1897 the Crown confiscated a larger parcel of land for the purposes of creating the Rotoiti Native Township. The township never eventuated and most of the taken land was returned to iwi ownership in 1923.

However, the Tamatea Street strip was not returned to iwi and instead, in 1958, was transferred to the then-Rotorua County Council. This has been the subject of a long-standing grievance by Ngāti Tamateatutahi ever since.

Today’s committee recommendation will now go to the next council meeting on 1 October for a final decision on whether to proceed. However that decision would be subject to Te Tahuna Trust protecting existing rights of local residents and securing ongoing public access to the reserve and lakefront, with the council continuing to cover the cost of roadway maintenance.

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Te Tahuna Trust has already signalled its acceptance of the provisions.

Councillor Karen Hunt said the decision to return ownership to iwi would be about righting a wrong that had endured for more than a century.

“I am really delighted with this. It has sat around for 100 years and it is high time it was resolved,” she said at the meeting.

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said because the trust owned all the land leases, it would be in its interest to retain the road access.

Mayor Steve Chadwick earlier said the decision would make little material difference to the council, to Tamatea Street property owners or to the general public.

“The land’s return will be of enormous historic and cultural significance to Ngāti Tamateatutahi.

“Today’s recommendation sends a very strong signal that we want to work hand-in-hand with iwi to build a positive future together for our district,” Mrs Chadwick said.

If today’s Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee recommendation is endorsed by the council at its 1 October meeting, a public notification process will be undertaken where objections can be lodged by the public before any transfer of title can proceed. The outcome of any objections received, and the final status of the land, would be ultimately determined by the Environment Court.

Read the agenda item

ENDS

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