A costly and controversial land bill facing stiff opposition from Maori
Proposed legislation poised to resolve a long-running land issue has been widely condemned by Maori and come at a significant financial cost to council.
As the second public hearing regarding the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill looms, the future it might have remains unclear.
Since September 2015, New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) has spent $436,000 on legal, survey and valuation costs associated with the bill.
However, several of the key stakeholders, including Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa and representatives from Manukorihi and Otaraua hapu oppose the proposed legislation.
The groups are set to speak to their views at the February 17 hearing which will be held at Waitara's Owae Marae.
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The local government bill provides a way for Waitara leaseholders to buy the land their houses are located on while returning about 60 hectares of reserve land to Te Atiawa. Another 16 hectares would be given to the iwi for development purposes.
The land was confiscated by the Crown from Te Atiawa and its Otaraua and Manukorihi hapu groups during the 1860s.
However, Te Atiawa declined to buy the land back, at a cost of $23 million, as part of its Treaty of Waitangi settlement deal.
It chose instead to enter into a non-binding Heads of Agreement with NPDC to draft a local bill to present to Parliament as a means to try and resolve the issue.
Initially, the bill had the backing of Te Atiawa but it had since changed its mind.
In its written submission, it asked the NPDC to either withdraw the bill or for the select committee to refuse to support it.
Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa chairwoman Liana Poutu said the iwi deserved to have more land returned to it and the level of discontent among its members about the bill had also been a factor in its decision to withdraw support for it.
In their submissions, Manukorihi and Otaraua hapu have also voiced strong opposition.
In total, the Maori Affairs select committee received 114 submissions on the bill.
Following the hearing in Waitara, a final session will be held in Wellington, before the select committee reported back to Parliament in March.
Last November, about 100 people attended the first hearing at New Plymouth's Novotel hotel.
The NPDC have said they are bound by legal and fiduciary obligations that are set out in the Local Government Act 2002 and in common law.