Holes seen in council's iwi policy

CAROLINE BROWN
Last updated 12:00 15/08/2014

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Further work is needed on a policy which would give local iwi first right of refusal on assets deemed surplus by the Rangitikei District Council.

The policy was drafted in response to a recommendation made by Te Roopu Ahi Kaa Komiti to the council, that iwi aspirations be considered in the sale of council assets.

Major holes were identified in the current policy at a council policy and planning committee meeting yesterday.

Mayor Andy Watson said it would give local iwi an unfair advantage over commercial businesses in the region.

"I am in favour of increased iwi support and development but I wonder if this is fair."

He also worried that the council could get less money from a property than if it were sold on the open market.

"For argument's sake, why would we accept $200,000 from a local iwi when there are two or three other businesses willing to pay $350,000?"

He said he recognised iwi had an interest in the properties but the council had to be aware of questions its ratepayers would ask.

"I may be playing devil's advocate here, but our ratepayers are going to say ‘this isn't fair'."

District Council policy analyst Michael Hodder said the council needed to see the potential benefit to the community of iwi purchasing these assets as something separate from cash value.

"We have to look at what they will bring to the community; best price may not be best value."

Councillor Lynne Sheridan raised the option that all potential buyers must submit a proposal with their plans for the property.

Cr Cath Ash said she hoped the council could reach a happy compromise.

"I'm fully in support of growth of the local iwi but we need to have a level playing field for all."

A tender process outlining the cost and benefits to the community would be fair for everyone.

Cr Soraya Peke-Mason said she worried that if iwi could purchase property for below market price, they might quickly on-sell it to make a profit.

"I'm a bit precious about this, and I don't want to see our land go to foreigners."

Watson said an Auckland property had been purchased by local iwi, and sold four days later.

"I'm not saying that's our ilk, but I could cite dozens of cases nationally."

He said this was the type of argument ratepayers would bring to the council.

Cr Richard Aslett asked what reason there was for anyone being given first dibs on a site.

Watson, deciding to take to contrary view, said if land adjacent to Speirs Foods, in Marton, opened up, they would be given first option because the council would want them to expand.

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It was the same for local iwi, he said; they needed capacity to expand themselves.

Watson said no other council had policies like this because it was too difficult.

The council voted to have a further draft prepared for the meeting on September 11.

- Manawatu Standard

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