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Waiting Game Goes On For Māori Land Discussion

More than six months after consultation ended, the future of a Southland reserve with special significance to Māori remains unknown.

Last October, Invercargill City Council completed a public notification process for two potential land disposals — Mokomoko Road Reserve and Awarua Bay Road Reserves.

The latter was discussed at a February meeting where it was decided to progress its sale, but Mokomoko Road Reserve is yet to be brought to the council table.

The organisation says it is waiting on additional information before it can progress.

Te Rūnanga o Awarua submitted to the council for both areas, calling it out for poor treatment of land at Mokomoko Road.

Rūnanga kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga wrote that the significance of Omaui — where the reserve was situated — could not be understated, and expressed concern over exposed archaeology.

The area was known as a place of burial, and great caution needed to be taken because of the risk in desecrating unknown urupā.

“It is wāhi Tupuna, it may or may not contain urupā, but given its close proximity to known ones it should be considered wāhi motuhake (special land).”

Whaanga also expressed disappointment the local authority had not paid heed to previously raised concerns.

“The area has been poorly treated in terms of its protection from planning and statutory process,” he said.

“Sections to the west of the Mokomoko are continually damaged, and archaeology exposed when iwi have informed council of the importance of the sites.”

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In his concluding remarks, Whaanga said the rūnanga aspired to have whenua at Omaui, and a place to reconnect through the land.

“The revocation of land has been described as of little recreational or environmental value, but to Te Rūnanga o Awarua the land is culturally extremely important.”

In response to questions from Local Democracy Reporting, Invercargill City Council group manager community spaces and places Rex Capil said the submission from the rūnanga highlighting the site’s cultural significance had been noted.

There was further opportunity for the council to directly work through the points with the rūnanga, Capil said.

Council manager parks and recreation Caroline Rain previously said the process for Mokomoko Road Reserve was scheduled to take place in April.

The two public notification processes for potential land disposal ended October 27, she said.

In regards to the Awarua Bay Road Reserves, the council intended to sell the blocks simultaneously, with all four deemed too small to build on.

Revocation of reserve status on two of the blocks was currently with the Minister of Conservation for sign-off.

A request from Te Rūnanga o Awarua in relation to those blocks for the purpose of a wāhi nohoanga (place to camp and gather kai) was also discussed at the February meeting.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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