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Joint Ownership Structure For Civic Precinct Land Approved

History was both recognised and made today, with Tauranga City Council’s Commission giving the green light to set up a new ownership structure for a significant area of land in the city centre.

Having considered feedback received during consultation on the proposal, the Commission today approved the establishment of a new Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) that will own the land referred to as ‘Site A’ of the civic precinct.

The site is set to be transformed over the coming years into a vibrant community space
called Te Manawataki o Te Papa, the heartbeat of Te Papa.

The new CCO will be jointly governed by Council and Otamataha Trust. The Trust represents mana whenua from Ngāi Tamarāwaho, Ngāti Tapu and Te Materāwaho – direct descendants of those who originally released the land to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1838, to be held in a sacred Trust for the benefit of Māori and the church (community)*.

Commission Chair Anne Tolley says the site has a long and complex ownership history and today’s decision represents an historic milestone for the people and city of Tauranga.

“I appreciate that it’s hard for many of us to imagine the feelings of hurt, frustration and alienation relating to this land that generations of local mana whenua have experienced so deeply for more than150 years,” says Anne.

“It was pleasing to see the community’s response to this solution was weighted so positively. People generally understood the intent behind it and could see that the impact on them on a day-to-day basis would be minimal.

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“To have found a unique and sensible pathway forward in partnership with the Trust, to help reconcile past events and restore mana to hapū and iwi, is something that should be welcomed.

“It now means we can move ahead with exciting plans to redevelop the civic precinct with certainty about how the land will be owned and used in the future, so that everyone in the community benefits,” says Anne.

As part of the arrangement, the new CCO will purchase the land from Council for a nominal amount. Council will then lease the land back from the CCO on a perpetual ‘peppercorn lease’ basis. Council will continue to own and be responsible for any improvements made to the existing buildings on the land, and for the construction and ownership of any new buildings and structures, as well as the day-to-day operation of the activities on the site. 

At today’s meeting, Commissioner Shad Rolleston paid tribute to the late Peri Kohu, who passed away not long after the proposal to establish a CCO was put before the Commission for consideration in July.

“I hope that Peri is looking down with a sense of pride that his long-held hope for the land has been reconciled,” says Shad.

Strategic Property Team Leader Phil Kai Fong says the new ownership structure is thought to be the first of its kind in the country.

“We are not aware of any other land ownership structure like this currently in place across Aotearoa and it is a great example of how councils can work in genuine partnership with mana whenua to help achieve collective goals, for the good of everyone,” says Phil.

A total of 73 submissions on the proposal were received during the consultation process that took place last month. Of those, 50 were in support, 16 opposed, six did not support the proposal in its current form, and one did not provide feedback on the proposal, but supported the future development of Te Manawataki o Te Papa.

Council will now proceed with finalising arrangements to establish the new CCO, to be called Te Manawataki o Te Papa Charitable Trust. A process for appointing Trustees is to be developed, with Council and Otamataha Trust to each appoint half of the trustees. The trustees are expected to be appointed before the end of the year.

*Historical overview of civic precinct site
In 1838, the land in the heart of Te Papa Peninsula was acquired from mana whenua by the Church Missionary Society (CMS), to be held for the benefit of Māori and the church, in the face of increasing land demand by settlers. However, much of the area was reluctantly gifted by the CMS to the Crown in the 1860s, despite the objections of mana whenua, who argued that if it wasn’t to be used for its original purpose, the land should be given back.

The block that forms the civic precinct (bounded by Willow, Hamilton, Wharf, and Durham Streets) – known as ‘Site A’ - was eventually transferred by the crown to the Borough of Tauranga in 1995, to be used for municipal buildings.

The alienation from the land that was experienced by mana whenua has been recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal as being undertaken in a manner that breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles.

For more detailed information about the history of the site, read historian Dr Alistair Reese’s report examining the encounter history of Te Papa on our website.

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