Treaty stoush heads to Parliament

02:58, Apr 03 2012
Naval base residents
SETTLEMENT STOUSH: Devonport residents protest against the sale of naval land

The concerns of Devonport residents, furious they have not been consulted about the inclusion of prime waterfront land in a Treaty settlement, will be taken to Parliament, Auckland Council has decided.

The public stoush is over a 3.2 hectare naval base, adjacent to Narrow Neck Beach, valued at $30 million and promised to Ngati Whatua in a settlement deed in November.

Under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act (2000) it had been promised as a reserve for the people of Auckland when it is no longer needed for defence purposes.

Yesterday, councillors decided they would make a submission to Parliament's Maori Affairs select committee, requesting the land not be included in the settlement.

Devonport-Takapuna local board chairman Chris Darby will work with Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse to finalise the submission which will be presented on behalf of Auckland Council. Submissions are open on the settlement until April 18.

On Saturday Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson fronted up to about 300 angry residents in Devonport in attempt to quell their concern over the settlement.

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The Devonport dispute was sparked after local councillors and residents raised fears the Crown was selling a prime piece of real estate to Maori illegally and without public consultation. Concerns also mounted that access to the waterfront would be cut.

However, the Crown insists it has every right to sell the land and public access will actually improve from the Treaty deal.

These reassurances have failed to cool the anger brewing in the normally quiet seaside suburb of Devonport and some residents are threatening to occupy the Royal New Zealand Navy base. Darby says around 12 individuals have told him they want to protest or occupy the land.

Ngati Whatua spokesman Ngarimu Blair said there is a misconception the deal involves the coastal area, sports field and surrounding reserve.

He says the iwi would not restrict access to "great pieces of land" on the harbour or river.

The RNZ Navy, which leases the land, will be offered a minimum lease of 15 years under the agreement.

Adjoining Takapuna Reserve and Narrow Neck Beach - totalling 11.9ha and covering the shoreline - remains in the public's possession and unaffected by the deal.

Plans are also under way to formalise a public walkway on the eastern strip of the base. Currently the navy can revoke access at three months' notice.

Darby said the legal argument boils down to a High Court decision in the late 1990s which kept the land protected from public sale.

However, Finlayson said the Crown is within its legal rights to sell the land to Ngati Whatua.

In a letter to a local paper, Finlayson called on residents to remember how Maori suffered significant land losses in Auckland and this needs to be addressed.

Shortly after the Treaty was signed the Crown bought 3000 acres of what is now downtown Auckland for 281 pounds.

Within six months, it had on-sold 90 acres of that land for 24,500 pounds.

Auckland Now