Hut case could cost Tūhoe $200k

By Wena Harawira

A number of ageing, colonial-design huts in Te Urewera have been earmarked for demolition in a plan by Tūhoe settlement entity, Te Uru Taumatua and the Department of Conservation (DOC) . Photo / RNZ.

The Tūhoe settlement entity, Te Uru Taumatua, says responding to a High Court injunction to stop demolition of Te Urewera huts may cost $200,000.

On November 9 the High Court at Rotorua ordered an immediate halt to the destruction of 48 huts following an application by Wharenui Clyde Tuna of Tūhoe, who was concerned about the loss of access to use the huts “as a base for food gathering, recreational and cultural purposes". He said Te Uru Taumatua failed to consult on its plan.

Justice Mark Woolford granted the injunction saying a hearing on the issues was needed, however no date has been set.

In its December e-pānui to iwi beneficiaries, Te Uru Taumatua stated it had spent $20,000 to respond to the injunction requests and estimated the process could cost $200,000, a budget it had intended to allocate to build transitional huts.

It wrote that since Te Urewera became a legal entity in 2013, the Crown contributed $8.87 million or an average of $1.3 million annually towards maintenance of the area, but this was less than what DOC used to spend on Te Urewera National Park - around $6 – $8 million a year.

Te Urewera Board had contributed $6.63 million of the $15.51 million spent over the past 7-years on hut maintenance, pest control, signs, tracks, visitor operations, human resources and workforce development, financial systems, asset management, equipment and vehicles.

It claimed DOC had “not been keen to shift responsibility and authority to Tūhoe for Te Urewera” and Tūhoe had been lumbered with a "75-year old DOC-Crown legacy that was not intended by the 2013 Treaty settlement".

Te Uru Taumatua also stated DOC had rejected collaboration to establish the systems, capability and infrastructure needed to operationalise Te Urewera Act, according to the pānui.

DOC has been approached for a response to the claims made by Te Uru Taumatua.