Leaseholders may get chance to buy

BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014
waitara

Waitara endowment and NPDC owned land

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Hundreds of Waitara leaseholders may soon be a step closer to owning the land they live on if a New Plymouth District Council proposal is given the tick of approval today.

If given the go ahead it's hoped further negotiations will turn the proposal into legislation.

"What we've tried to do is meet the aspirations of all those involved. We wanted a solution for everyone, iwi, the leaseholders and the wider community of Waitara," council chief executive Barbara McKerrow said.

Under the proposal, Te Atiawa will take ownership of 40 hectares of land and be given first right of refusal to purchase part of Ranfurly Park and part of the Waitara Golf Course if the council sells.

McKerrow said the council would still manage the land owned by the iwi and access, to what was mostly recreational area, would not be impeded. However, a six hectare portion of that would be gifted to the iwi outright.

In exchange the iwi's post-settlement governance entity (PSGE) will need to support the removal of restrictions on how leasehold income can be spent and back the formation of a separate entity to handle the money.

This is huge news for the 770 leaseholders in Waitara who have fought to have freehold ownership of the land for years.

Jonathan Marshall, who formed the Waitara Leaseholders Association, said he congratulated the council on the proposal. "It's good, the only unknown is what price they will put on it [freehold]."

Council property manager Peter Handcock said this would be negotiated if the proposal continued to the next step.

The land is steeped in history and was confiscated by the Crown as punishment for the land wars of the 1860s. In the late 1900s it ended up in the hands of the council and 10 years ago the council agreed to offer up the sites for Treaty settlements.

The Waitara Leaseholders' Association took the issue to court and in 2007, after many hearings, the Supreme Court ruled the council was in the right.

Mayor Andrew Judd said the ongoing issues had been an "Achilles heel for everybody".

"Everyone has been working hard to find a solution. . ."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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