Deadline looming for submissions on controversial Waitara land bill
The deadline is looming for people to have their say on a bill designed to settle long-standing issues around tracts of land confiscated off Taranaki Maori more than 150 years ago.
November 7 is the final day for submissions to be lodged to the Maori Affairs Select Committee about the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill.
If passed into law, the bill will pave the way for Waitara leaseholders to buy the land their houses sit on, sites which were originally confiscated in 1865 by the Crown from Te Atiawa and two hapu groups Otaraua and Manukorihi.
But many from within Te Atiawa are voiced their opposition to the proposed legislation and have called for the land to be returned to iwi.
* Landmark Waitara Lands Bill has been introduced to Parliament
* Waitara Lands Bill opens for public submissions
* Manukorihi hapu to demonstrate opposition to Waitara Land Bill
* Hikoi planned to show solidarity against proposed Waitara land legislation
* Taranaki people walk together to show unity against controversial land bill
In September, the Taranaki Maori Women's Network arranged a hikoi, dubbed Peace for Pekapeka, which attracted a crowd of 200.
A petition was also launched by the group, which urges Members of Parliament to vote against the bill. The petition has more than 1300 signatures and will be delivered to the Maori Affairs Select Committee public hearing regarding the bill's submissions.
The public hearing will be held on November 18 in either New Plymouth or Waitara.
Te Atiawa's Grant Knuckey said he felt like this was the final opportunity to have a say on the controversial piece of legislation.
"This is it to me. This is possibly the final settling of this particular matter," he said.
"We're getting down to the wire."
It is a topic Knuckey had taken a special interest in since the 1990s but he said the long-running issue needed to be resolved once and for all for the sake of the Waitara township.
"We need to move on," he said.
Knuckey said while he recognised the grievances held by hapu, it was important the leaseholders were not left out in the cold.
Waitara man Bill Simpson, who was previously on the town's community board, has been a long-time advocate for the leaseholders and has helped about 30 people prepare submissions for the select committee ahead of the cut-off date.
Simpson said the cost to buy the unimproved land is the main point of contention for leaseholders and formed the core part of submissions.
The New Plymouth District Council has 769 leasehold sections in Waitara and recent valuations have put the price of an average section of unimproved land around $90,000.
He said the lack of options available to leaseholders was "unfair".
The Maori Affairs Select Committee is due to report back to Parliament by March 2017.