Wait goes on for Te Atiawa settlement

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014

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Waitara leaseholders will have to wait another month to find out whether Te Atiawa iwi will be their new landlords.

The New Plymouth District Council was yesterday advised by the Office of Treaty Settlements that the process of considering the Waitara endowment lands as part of treaty negotiations with Te Atiawa Iwi has been extended to the end of April.

Currently owned and administered by the council the government has agreed to a $23 million transfer price for the 780 lease land properties if it is included in Te Atiawa's settlement.

With the package expected to be finalised in July, a decision on the contentious lease lands was due in March but has been pushed back to the end of the month.

Te Atiawa Iwi Authority chairwoman Wikitoria Keenan stuck to her "no comment" position on the lease land proposal and deadline extension, but remained confident they would sign a full settlement package by the end of July. She said the iwi wanted to conclude its settlement by then as they could not be certain of what would happen after the general election in September.

The lease lands, also known as the endowment lands, are one of the most contentious parts of the iwi's potential settlement package that also includes the Sugar Loaf Islands and will reportedly be worth as much as $88m.

The residential and industrial leases have long been a headache for council. Massive ground rent increases in recent years have sparked protests and widespread community anger.

Waitara leaseholder and protest organiser Eric Williams said the extension of the deadline was a further betrayal of leaseholders.

"As far as Waitara leaseholders go, this has stirred the pot," he said.

While Williams believes the council can legally reduce the ground rents of leases, council has always maintained it can do nothing to alter the value of the land while it is under offer to the government.

However it will reconsider what it does with the land if Te Atiawa declines to take it.

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