DOC land occupied in Northland

By Tumamao Harawira

An occupation has begun in the Whangārei area to put a halt to a transfer of land from the Department of Conservation to the Whangārei District Council. 

Pātaua South is 30 minutes from Whangārei, and local iwi Te Waiariki and Ngāti Kororā began occupying land at the DOC carpark in Pātaua South in protest of a potential sale of 57ha of land owned by the Harrison family of Pātaua. The iwi has been in discussions to buy the land but time is running out.

Hori Parata says the local iwi is concerned at some of the decisions being made. "The Department of Conservation and the district council without any consultation from us, the tangata whenua, went ahead and vested the piece of road here into the district council, allowing there to be a legal access."

The land in question was owned by John (Tim) Harrison, who died in 2016 leaving an estate worth as much as $10 million. According to Parata, Ngāti Kororā and Te Waiariki have made their intentions to buy the 57ha block clear. "What our position is that we said we will not engage with that process of putting bids into an envelope that are going to be opened on  April 8.  I said to my lawyer to speak to the executive whether they would accept a whakapapa-based bid that will be one dollar higher than the highest bid."

Kelly Klink of Te Waiariki has been instrumental in the fight to halt the sale of this land. She says, "We found that a piece of the land had finally come up for sale, and the whānau have tried to put a bid in and they have ignored it. Yesterday we had a hui and it's about uniting Te Waiariki under one umbrella and standing together and trying to get this whenua back for whānau hapū. We want the whenua back into the hands of Māori so it goes back to its rightful owner, and so that's why we are here."

Furthermore, Te Waiariki wants to challenge the Department of Conservation's transfer of the roadway here to the Whangārei District Council as a means for access to the block.

DOC northern North Island operations director Sue Reed-Thomas says the department is aware of the concerns being raised by iwi at Pātaua Sth and will be addressing these concerns directly with them in person.  We are hoping to meet with them later this week."

Hori Parata says this land is very sacred to his people. "I think we been here since year dot, our whakapapa. So we got iho whenua here from our tūpuna right through to ourselves, the pito of our babies are put here, we still got kōiwi here on this island. We got wāhi tapū all around this island. "