Wai-o-tapu tourist attraction rent dispute settled

The Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa Rūnanga Trust has been successful in their court case against Te Arawa Holdings over ownership of the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland near Rotorua.

Tensions arose after Tahu-Whaoa was granted ownership of the land by the Crown during treaty settlements, sparking a battle over lease prices.

Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa Rūnanga Trust Chairman Roger Pikia says, "Many generations have passed on without the privilege of seeing that estate returned to the iwi."

The thermal tourist attraction is run by Te Arawa Group Holdings but the land is owned by Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa.  The court was a last resort to settle the dispute.

"It's inevitable that those tensions arise from time to time.  The test of leadership is whether or not you can overcome those types of situations and then get your people back on to an even keel."

According to Pikia, it's been a three-year process and has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"What comes with the devolution of that estate to our iwi is the responsibility and the obligations that go along with the administering and caring for that to ensure that it's handed on to our next generation."

In a statement to Te Kāea, Te Arawa Group Holdings said, "We have accepted the outcome and cleared the amounts owing to the lessor. Te Arawa Group Holdings always knew that the rent on Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland was going to increase.

"This was entirely appropriate and reasonable.  However, the increase sought by the landlord was extraordinarily high and we owed it to our 20,000 beneficiaries to prudently challenge the proposed increase."

Tahu-Whaoa is a shareholder.

"We do wish our tenant all the best because we need for them to be successful as a commercial investment company because we expect to generate healthy dividends from that company." Says Pikia.

Te Arawa Group Holdings say they've accepted the arbitrator’s decision and consider the matter resolved.