New Plymouth council denies it reaped up to $140m in income from stolen Maori land
Claims it pocketed up to $140 million in income from stolen Maori land have been refuted by the boss of New Plymouth's council.
Carl Chenery, of the Tamaki Treaty Workers group, is an opponent of the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill, which is currently before the Maori Affairs select committee.
The contentious bill proposes 780 leasehold properties in Waitara would become freehold, with 60 hectares of land to be given back to Te Atiawa.
The leasehold land was illegally confiscated by the Crown from the iwi and the Otaraua and Manukorihi hapu in the 1860s. Many who have spoke out in opposition of the bill have demanded the land to be returned, with no strings attached.
Chenery said the group applied to New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) under the Official Information Act to try and work out how much money it had earned from the leasehold land since it was confiscated.
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He believed this aspect had never been acknowledged by the council and it needed to be factored into the discussions around the land bill.
Under its analysis, Chenery said the group calculated NPDC had reaped between $95m to $140m in earnings.
But NPDC acting chief executive Alan Bird said the calculations were incorrect.
"The figures from Tamaki Treaty Workers are assumptions and the calculations are based on housing inflation rates as opposed to normal inflation rates," Bird said.
Bird said council staff had been able to search its archives back to World War II.
"The data we have from history is incomplete and old fashioned, with different accounting systems," he said.
Bird said since 2007 about $8.4 million had been collected by council in rents.
He said about $4.4m of this had been spent on administration, lease management, legal fees and infrastructure in Waitara.
Chenery said the Auckland based group had taken an interest in the proposed legislation because of the role Waitara played in the country's land war history.
"This is a bill of national significance," he said.
Chenery is one of the chorus of people who have spoken out in opposition of the bill.
"Our hope would be that it is significantly amended or rejected," he said.
Meanwhile, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, who is in charge of the bill, has continued to meet behind closed doors with iwi and hapu representatives.
While tight-lipped about the content of the discussions, Young said the meetings were about clarifying the information received to date by the parties involved.
"As you can imagine, it's incredibly complex and fraught with a lot of emotion," he said.
The Maori Affairs select committee was due to report back to Parliament in March but the date was pushed out to the end of May.