Iwi asks Ironman to pay for using Lake Taupo

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013

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The iwi that owns Lake Taupo is looking to charge Ironman New Zealand competitors about $56,000 for use of the lake during the swim leg of the endurance triathlon.

The proposed levy by Ngati Tuwharetoa would be about $40 a head for competitors, who have already paid at least $785 each to enter this year's event, in which about 1450 people will take part next month.

It is understood Ironman NZ officials will meet iwi trust board members tomorrow to discuss the proposal.

Race officials would not comment specifically on the levy proposal, but said one option would be to hold the event elsewhere.

"It may be a matter of sitting down with the board and discussing what is required," a race spokesman said.

Ngati Tuwharetoa spokesman Glen Inwood said the trust board was not in a position to discuss how much was being sought by the iwi.

"There are ongoing discussions with event organisers which are commercially sensitive."

Under the revised 2007 settlement between Ngati Tuwharetoa and the Crown, the trust board is recognised as the legal owner of Lake Taupo, and has the right to license commercial users of the lake.

After ratification of the deed, the Crown paid the board a one-off $9.85 million, and agreed to an annual payment of $1.5m. The iwi also receives a share of fishing licence fees every year.

The Offshore Powerboat Association, which holds a round of its national championships on Lake Taupo each summer, pays a fee to the board for anchoring race buoys to the lake bed.

Grant Morris, a senior law lecturer at Victoria University, said Ironman NZ, owned by World Triathlon Corporation, was a commercial operation.

"Tuwharetoa actually own the lake bed, subsoil, space occupied by water and airspace above the lake. So they pretty much own everything except the water.

"So this, to me, doesn't sound particularly surprising or over the top."

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- The Dominion Post

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