Protestors pay $400 for bypass whenua; government says not for sale

By Will Trafford

Approximately 30 hectares of native bush will be destroyed by the Mt Messenger bypass project, which has been opposed by several landowners and some mana whenua. Photo / File

Protestors who oppose the Mt Messenger bypass say they have bought the abandoned state highway area where they were evicted earlier this month.

The group forked out around $400 to get title to the 424 square metres of land from Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), but the government agency says it’s not for sale.

Six protestors were camped out in the lay-by on the northern slope of the mountain known as ‘the rock’ on November 4, when up to 80 police officers served them with a trespass notice.

Approximately 30 hectares of native bush will be destroyed by a giant construction project, which has been opposed by several landowners and some mana whenua.

"What we found was that it was a parcel of land that had no title so, as far as we were concerned, it was still in aboriginal title, so the ownership sat with Ngā hapū o Poutama," a member of the protest group, Marie Gibbs told RNZ.

According to Gibbs, Ngā hapū o Poutama had its land confiscated by the Crown in the 1860s.

"In 1987 they gazetted it 'stopped road' and we're not quite sure what that means because they never issued a title to it,” she said.

Return it to owner

"Now that it's 'stopped road' and the Crown doesn't need it for roading any more under the Public Works Act, they are needing to return it to the original owners."

According to Gibbs, the land had a $400 value, according to the regional council's property information webpage. 

They had paid Land Information that sum to secure the land for the uri (the descendants) of Ngā hapū o Poutama and Ngāti Tama.

In a statement, LINZ regulatory practice and delivery head Rebecca McAtamne said the land had not been and was not for sale.

“As the Crown owns it, the land is subject to the Ngāti Tama Treaty of Waitangi settlement,” McAtamney sai.

“The Crown is not in the process of selling this land." 

Iwi leaders of Ngāti Tama have given their approval to the project as mana whenua of the region.

McAtamney said Land Information NZ had returned the $400.

- Additional reporting, RNZ

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