Cafe overcomes iwi's opposition
It's been a long road for restaurateur Jeremy Schmid who hopes to bring Fort Takapuna's officers' mess back to its roots as a dining institution.
Mr Schmid, who owns award-winning bistro Two Fifteen in Mt Eden, teamed up with North Shore teacher Fiona Bias two years ago to investigate turning the historic officers' mess hall into a restaurant and reception venue.
Last month the Department of Conservation granted them a 10-year lease - half the term they had applied for.
Opposition to the the proposed lease by Paul Majurey on behalf of the Marutuahu iwi dragged the process out by almost a year.
The opposition from Mr Majurey was on the grounds that the Crown was in direct Treaty of Waitangi negotiations with the Marutuahu iwi over the area.
And once it was lodged DOC was obliged to go through a hearings process, which was done behind closed doors because of confidentiality around Treaty negotiations.
"Everything has taken a lot longer than I thought," Mr Schmid says.
"Because it's DOC they're having to do everything by the book."
DOC decided to go through with the lease, pointing out that to date there is not agreement in principal or any other public milestone document between the Crown and the iwi relating to the Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve.
A large part of the reserve leased by the NZ Navy was confirmed last week as financial redress in the Ngati Whatua o Orakei settlement earlier this year, despite vocal opposition from the community.
Treaty minister Chris Finlayson assured residents that there would be no further Treaty settlements involving land at Fort Takapuna.
A report says it has been a priority for DOC to find a suitable party to run the officers' mess as a cafe and functions venue for several years.
DOC's acting Auckland Area Office manager Phil Brown says the partnership
offers the chance to secure the long-term preservation of a unique piece of the North Shore's history.
"After carefully considering a wide range of local points of view, we've entered an agreement that will see the building restored and renovated, and historic values of the building maintained and enhanced," Mr Brown says.
Public access to the reserve and the buildings will be increased through events such as Sculpture OnShore and use of the officers' mess for community events.
Mr Schmid and Ms Bias are hoping to turn the historic mess hall, which has a long history of feeding army and navy personnel, into a family-oriented restaurant and weekend cafe. The building will also be available for weddings and functions.
A planned start date of last January is already a distant memory and the duo is now working through the process of gaining the required consents from council with a tentative opening date of next autumn.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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