Waitara leases proposal dismissed

The latest proposal to resolve the Waitara endowment lands issue has been dismissed by a representative of some of the town's leaseholders.

Waitara's Eric Williams said the proposal, passed by the New Plymouth District Council at an extraordinary meeting last week, meant nothing to the group he represented.

"We're still going ahead with arbitration," he said.

On Friday, approval was given by the council for the mayor and chief executive to enter into a heads of agreement with Te Atiawa's post-settlement governance entity, known as Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Trust.

The agreement sets out the possibility of 40ha of Waitara endowment land being returned to iwi and for it to also have first right of refusal to buy other endowment land.

In return, iwi would support a local bill that would remove statutory trusts and restrictions relating to how income from any land sales could be used.

That move could open the door for the council to offer Waitara leaseholders the option to freehold their properties.

However, Williams said that option was already out of reach for the people he represented as many would not be able to afford to do that anyway.

"Nothing has actually changed," he said.

The group had been able to pool some money to fund an independent valuation of their properties.

At a July meeting, a mandate was given by the Waitara leaseholders for a valuation of the properties to be prepared, with a view to heading to arbitration with the council if there was a significant disparity between the two.

Williams said the valuer engaged by the leaseholders to do the work was due to arrive in Taranaki today. Once a report was available, it would be discussed at the leaseholder group's next meeting. A date for the meeting had yet to be set.

Taranaki Daily News