Campaigners empathise with local iwi position on Abel Tasman beach


Why should we buy a beach? Campaign orgnaiser, Duane Major explains.

Abel Tasman beach campaigners say they empathise with local iwi who are claiming the property should be returned to Maori.

Wakatū Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan claims the private beach was taken "dubiously" by the Crown and it should be returned to local iwi.

Beach campaigner Duane Major said he understood this was not an easy issue for local Maori and there had not been a lot of time for them to process what was happening.

Congratulations, New Zealand: This beach is ours.

Congratulations, New Zealand: This beach is ours.

The whirlwind nature of the campaign had limited the number of options for the beach's new ownership, Major said.

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However, the team running the bid to buy the beach for the public had been in consultation with iwi throughout the process.

Buy the beach campaigners Adam Gard'ner and Duan Major signed, sealed and delivered New Zealand's tender for the beach ...

Buy the beach campaigners Adam Gard'ner and Duan Major signed, sealed and delivered New Zealand's tender for the beach on Tuesday.

All conversations with iwi had been "heartfelt" and respectful, he said, adding that stories about the land he had heard from iwi resonated with him and fellow campaigner Adam Gard'ner.

"The shared commitment to that overarching vision is strong...

"I don't think there are any heroes here or villains, we've just got a country talking to each other about what matters," he said.

Wakatū Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan says the land includes Maori burial grounds.
Paul Kennedy/photonewzealand

Wakatū Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan says the land includes Maori burial grounds.

The crowdfunding campaign to buy the seven hectare property, including 800 metres of pristine shoreline, at the Awaroa Inlet raised more than $2 million from almost 40,000 donors.

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Tenders for the property closed at 4pm on Tuesday.

Campaigners said they were feeling good about the offer they had made on behalf of New Zealand.

However, the bid to buy the beach for everyone to enjoy hit another bump in the road when Wakatū Incorporation's Morgan stated a claim to the land on behalf of his iwi after the campaign closed.

The area surrounding and including what is now Abel Tasman National Park was settled by Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Tama and Te Ati Awa.

Morgan said the land, which included burial grounds, was taken dubiously by the Crown.

The Wakatū Incorporation was waiting on a Supreme Court decision on surrounding Maori property rights in the area.

In the meantime, Morgan said he wanted people to understand the significance the land had to mana whenua.

His ideal situation was for the land to be returned to Maori, who would keep it open for everyone to enjoy.

"It's got nothing to do with excluding people.

"It's about the recognition of the history and what's transpired there."

Morgan said he purposefully waited until the last minute to raise the issue in the hope of getting the public's attention and bringing the issue to the forefront.

Meanwhile, Manawhenua ki Mohua Trust chairman Barney Thomas said he had been in communication with campaigners on a daily basis and was supportive of the campaign.

"The first step in the right direction is to get this campaign across the line."

Thomas agreed it was important to highlight the site's historical significance to Maori, which would hopefully come about if the campaign's bid was successful.

The campaign's submission also included ways to involve local Maori youth in the management of the land.

In response to Morgan's claims, Thomas said transferring ownership to local iwi was "easier said than done".

Ngati Tama Ki Te Waipounamu Trust chairwoman Leanne Manson said her iwi supported the position for the Awaroa Inlet to be preserved for New Zealanders despite choosing not to help fund the campaign.

Ngati Tama trustee Fred Te Miha said he believed the land should be returned to Maori.

However, that was his personal opinion, not the position of the iwi.

Wellington lawyer Geoff Harley, law firm Bell Gully and Harcourts chief executive Chris Kennedy, who were offering their services on a pro bono basis, were in charge of the campaign's tender submission and ongoing negotiations.

Major said he understood it could take up to five working days for the new owner to be confirmed due to the tender negotiation process.

 - Stuff

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