Descendants of the owners of Panepane Point on Matakana Island are being called to a hui on their ancestral land on September 20 to discuss its fate.
The land, some 400 acres, was taken from Maori ownership in 1922 for port purposes, and never returned.
Matakana Island looking towards the entrance and Panepane Point. Photo: File.
Discussions over the return of the land have been ‘underway’ for several years with Western Bay of Plenty District council. SunLive reported in July 2013 that the preferred time for the required public consultation was during the recent annual plan process for 2014/15.
However, after that failed to materialise, the chances of such a consultation happening this year appear slim, with no explanation from the council as to why it didn’t happen or why the public consultation is not going ahead.
Island resident and co-owner Taiawa Kuka says the council is placing a lot of conditions on the land’s return without consulting the owners.
“I know there has been some negotiations with the council,” says Taiawa, “and they are willing to return this land. But they have never got in touch with the owners. They are meeting with a very small group of five or six.”
The land was taken in two parts involving a dozen original owners, who by now would have ‘quite a lot’ of descendants, says Taiawa.
“This is the issue – the terms and conditions that the western bay are deciding they are putting on the land before they return it to us,” adds Taiawa. “We will decide what is going to be on there and agree it from there.”
There are two groups of affected owners from the original seizure:
The five Panepane owners, consisting of Hori Ngatai, Renata Toriri, Heta Te Aria, Hamuera Te Paki and Hori Te Maupu, plus the seven Purakau owners: Kiepa Te Amohau, Te Kuka, Te Ninihi, Paikea, Tu Ropera, Hohepa Hikutaia and Hemi Paama.
As things stood back in 2013, the preferred option for Maori was for the full return of title, subject to the guarantee of public access and joint management with WBOP District Council, via a Reserve Management Plan.
The stated intention was to develop a draft Reserves Management Plan by December 2013, which includes reference to Panepane Point’s future ownership.
The land is the site of key Port of Tauranga navigation markers. Ownership was transferred from the harbour board to the Western Bay of Plenty District Council in the 1989 local government reforms.
“I guess the crown, at that time, took the view that there was no need to hand land back if it was still required for a public use,” said Ngai Te Rangi rununga chairman Charlie Tawhiao in 2013.
“The crown took a fairly liberal view of what a public work was in those days. Anything the public wanted to do was public work and was never challenged.”
Maori concerns about the long term future of their former lands were confirmed when the Tauranga City Council proposed selling off the May Street reserve in 2011 to retire debt.
People arriving for the September 20 event are encouraged to bring lunch and a blanket and lunch. Start time is at 10am. There is a ferry arranged to depart from the ramp by Sanford Ltd at Cross Road Sulphur Point at 9.30am, returning at 2pm.