Wellington railway station on Maori timetable

BY TIM DONOGHUE
Last updated 05:00 28/09/2009

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Wellington railway station could end up in Maori ownership as part of a Treaty of Waitangi deal that also gives iwi first rights to buy any piece of Crown land put up for sale in the capital during the next 100 years.

Wellington and Taranaki Maori have been given two years to decide whether they want to buy the refurbished 72-year-old railway station building.

The deferred purchase option is part of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust's finalised Treaty agreement with the Crown.

Delegates at the trust's annual meeting at Pipitea Marae in Thorndon at the weekend were told the trust had two years to decide whether it wanted to buy the country's busiest railway station and at least 14 other properties.

Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love said no decision had yet been made on the possible railway station purchase: "We've got time. We'll give everything due consideration."

The century-long first-right-of-refusal deal on Crown properties reflected an inter-generational approach to the Treaty settlement, he said.

Another trust spokesperson said that if the trust did decide to buy the railway station building it was "highly, highly unlikely that anything would change" regarding its current use.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the trust would make a good landlord for the station, constructed in 1937. "The building is owned by the Crown. The trust could be interested in owning it. The council is very relaxed about it," she said.

The station sits on some of the city's most valuable land and the Government has spent more than $14 million on a refurbishment. Main tenants in the building are KiwiRail and Victoria University.

The trust is also considering attempts to buy at least 14 other properties, including the former Petone College, the former Petone fire station, three Salamanca Rd properties opposite the MetService building, Kaumatua Flats at two sites in Lower Hutt, Transit land alongside the Wellington motorway and vacant land in Ventnor St, Seatoun.

The trust incorporates representatives from a group of Taranaki iwi Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngati Tama, Ngati Ruanui and Ngati Mutunga.

The iwi signed the Port Nicholson Block Deed of Purchase in 1839, but there was a subsequent failure to set aside 10 per cent of the land for Maori, as was agreed at the time.

The trust received $25 million in cash and several lucrative property rights as part of this year's settlement deal.

It was also granted full land ownership of properties at 1 Thorndon Quay, 81-87 Thorndon Quay, property known as the Waiwhetu Rd site, the former Wainuiomata College, Wainuiomata Intermediate and Waiwhetu school sites.

The trust has a 10-year option to buy and lease back land, including properties occupied by the High Court, district court, National Archives and National Library.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, who attended the weekend meeting, said last night he was pleased with the outcome.

"Labour signed the deed of settlement in 2008 and I helped it through Parliament. The Government looks forward to working with Taranaki whanui for the good of the people of Wellington."

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- The Dominion Post

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