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Te Rūnanga O Ngāti Whātua Welcomes Commissioner's Decision Regarding Awataha Marae

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua acknowledges the recent decision by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, affirming the concerns raised regarding breaches of the Crown lease of Awataha Marae by Awataha Marae Incorporated Society (AMIS).

The original intention behind the lease was to facilitate traditional Māori marae activities, where tangihanga was prioritised over all other activities. It was also intended that individuals of good repute (including Māori from the local community) would have the opportunity to join AMIS and contribute to marae operations.

The Crown charged peppercorn rental for the lease which was signed in 1988. However, over the past 35 years, numerous requests from community members to hold tangihanga at the marae have been denied, resulting in such ceremonies being conducted in homes and garages.

The Commissioner's decision validates the longstanding efforts of the local community and ensures that Awataha Marae will be managed to serve the needs of the local community, particularly for hosting tangihanga.

Key findings of the Commissioner's decision include breaches related to the failure to prioritise tangihanga and inadequate opportunities for eligible individuals to join AMIS. While the Commissioner has not initiated lease forfeiture proceedings at this time, he has provided recommendations aimed at remedying these breaches.

The suggested measures include dedicating a marae building for tangihanga, updating the marae website to facilitate bookings for tangihanga, and reconsidering the ongoing necessity of rāhui over the wharenui at Awataha Marae.

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In addition, AMIS has been instructed to convene a Special General Meeting to address membership applications and to enhance engagement with Ngāti Whātua.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua remains committed to collaborating with the local Māori community to uphold the original purposes of the lease, ensuring that the marae serves as a venue for traditional activities and that community members can actively participate in its management.

CEO Alan Riwaka expressed appreciation for the unwavering commitment of local whānau and hāporimembers in championing the cause. He emphasised the significance of acknowledging their struggle, as many have had to resort to conducting tangihanga ceremonies in makeshift locations due to the unavailability of the marae.

Riwaka reiterated the stance of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua was to support the whānau and hāpori members and ensure the marae is managed in alignment with its intended purpose for the benefit of all stakeholders.

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