Kill Waitara Lands Bill – Te Atiawa Leader

By Heeni Brown

Proposed legislation which will allow Waitara residents to buy the land they live on is being opposed by submissions which were presented to the Māori Select Committee in Taranaki. Around 20 submissions were presented for the New Plymouth District Waitara Lands Bill which was introduced to Parliament last year.

If the bill becomes law, it will allow for Waitara lease holders to buy land their houses sit on. This land commonly known as Pekapeka was originally confiscated by the Crown in 1865 from Te Atiawa and Waitara hapū Manukorihi and Otaraua.

Former Te Atiawa settlement negotiator Peter Moeahu wants the Māori Select Committee to scrap the proposed Waitara Lands Bill. 

"We look to you our Political All Blacks we ask you to search your heart of hearts and ask yourself what is the right moral and just thing to do. What is the right moral and just thing to do? There can only be one right answer that is to return the land to tangata whenua. Mr Chairman, this may be done at the time of the Taranaki Maunga settlement by inclusion in that bill provisions to remove the endowment from the Waitara land and return it to tangata whenua ensuring Mr Chairman the leaseholder rights are protected are guaranteed under that transfer provision. In the meantime let’s kill bill."

During their settlement process, Te Atiawa declined the Council offer to have Waitara leases for $23mil in 2014.

Local resident Andrew Larsen says Te Atiawa have had their chance and it's now it’s the leaseholders' turn.

"The Iwi Te Atiawa were offered the land as part of the Treaty settlement and turned it down so I'm going to be blunt but they've had their opportunity to have that last stand and they turned it down unfortunately for whatever reason I don't know, for whatever reason I don't know. I can't comment on their behalf but they turned it down - but this is now an opportunity for freehold land."

83-year-old Te Rauaroha Denness says she leases the land her family home is situated on for $4000 a year. They're due for a renewal on their lease in five years. She says it's expensive and opposes the proposed legislation.

"I pay thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands every year to the New Plymouth District Council so I can stay on my land."

Select Committee Member Peeni Henare said, “We are still split, there are more questions the Committee wants to ask. Some agree to the way the bill is but for me personally I do not agree at this stage so today is about listening to Iwi after hearing from the Council and others.”

The Māori Affairs Select Committee is expected to report back the bill by March, 22.