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Commissioners explore partnership options to reconnect mana whenua with civic precinct land - because it’s the right thing to do

We can’t change the past, but we can do our best to right past wrongs.

That’s the view of Tauranga City Commissioners who today agreed to consult with the community on partnership options to reconnect mana whenua with a significant piece of land in the city centre, where the new civic precinct will be built.

Options include sticking with the status quo, or co-ownership of the land through the establishment of a council-controlled-organisation (CCO), which is council’s recommended option. Under this arrangement the land would be transferred to the CCO for a nominal sale price of $1 and subject to a perpetual peppercorn ground lease back to Council. Council would retain ownership of any improvements on the land and be entitled to develop and construct further improvements.

Commission Chair Anne Tolley says there’s a long and complex history with the site, dating back nearly 200 years, and unresolved grievances associated with the land remain.

“The alienation from this area of land that was experienced by mana whenua has been recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal as being undertaken in a manner that breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles,” she says.

“As a Commission, we believe it’s important to reconcile this longstanding grievance now, so we can right past wrongs, secure the land for future generations and provide long-term certainty for the community in terms of public use.”

Te Papa Peninsula is culturally significant to mana whenua of Tauranga Moana, particularly Ngai Tamarāwaho, Ngāti Tapu and Te Materāwaho, as represented by the Otamataha Trust. Acquired from mana whenua by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1838, along with the central kāinga (village) of early Tauranga, the land was intended to be held by the CMS for the benefit of Māori, in the face of increasing land demand by settlers. Instead, it was gifted to the Crown and the block that forms the civic precinct (bounded by Willow, Hamilton, Wharf, and Durham Streets) was eventually issued to the Mayor, Councillors and Citizens of the Borough of Tauranga in 1995 for municipal buildings.

Otamataha Trust Co-Chair Peri Kohu says his ancestors initially had a close relationship with the CMS and Archdeacon Brown, which helps to explain why the abandonment was felt so keenly.

“It was Ngai Tamarāwaho who suffered the brunt of the confiscations, with the 50,000 acres that was eventually confiscated being mostly our traditional rohe. We were reduced to landless squatters – right here in what is now the CBD – we lived, and, to feed ourselves, gardened on vacant sections that had not been taken up by the new owners,” he says.  

“Over the years, we’ve steadfastly maintained that the land was ours, and this hui today signals a new start for us and Council, while going a very long way towards righting a wrong that has been with us for generations. Having our mana restored through joint ownership of the civic centre land will achieve that, while the continued use of the land for public and community purposes represents another hugely generous contribution from the hāpu to the city.”

Today’s decision follows Council working closely with Otamataha Trust on the civic precinct masterplan refresh, so that the vision better reflects the site’s rich history and its significance to mana whenua. This successful partnership, and the Trust’s subsequent gifting of the name, Te Manawataki O Te Papa – the heartbeat of Te Papa, reflects how much the relationship between Council and the Trust has strengthened and the good that can come because of it. A non-binding accord (agreement) setting out both parties’ aspirations for partnership and joint ownership of the land beneath the civic precinct development was also signed on Monday, 11 July 2022.

“Through working alongside the Otamataha Trust, we’ve witnessed first-hand how much of an impact the unresolved grievances continue to have on the wellbeing of mana whenua,” says Anne.

“Listening to what they've experienced makes me feel dwarfed by their magamaninity.”

Commissioner Shad Rolleston says there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by considering a co-ownership model.

“Māori as mana whenua, non-Maori, our wider community, those of us living today, and generations yet to come – everyone stands to benefit,” says Shad.

“Exploring options for a joint ownership approach to this significant area of land is the next logical step and the right thing to do.”

The community will have the opportunity to share their feedback on these options from late-August.

Posted: Jul 25, 2022,
Categories: General, CCO,

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