Historic Day for New Zealand: Maori Affairs Committee Recommends NPDC's Waitara Lands Bill Be Approved

02 August 2017

The Maori Affairs Committee’s recommendation that Parliament approves a Bill to free up leasehold lands in Waitara is a historic moment for New Zealand, says New Plymouth District Mayor Neil Holdom.

New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) has worked with the Māori Affairs Committee to make amendments to the Bill. 

If approved by Parliament, funds from the leasehold land – both rents and sales proceeds – will now be used as follows:

  • Fifty per cent of NPDC’s share of rent or sales proceeds will now go to a fund for Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū to enable them to own land in or around Waitara.
  • The rest of NPDC’s funds would continue to go into a perpetual fund for the benefit of the Waitara community, with a governance team comprising NPDC and Te Atiawa representatives.
  • Taranaki Regional Council’s share of rent or sales proceeds will now be used on the Waitara River catchment by a joint TRC and iwi committee.

The Bill balances the aspirations of hapū and leaseholders as well as NPDC’s legal obligations.

“This is a huge step forward and something we as a community have been working towards for more than 30 years,” says Mayor Holdom. 

“Waitara’s story is New Zealand’s story. It’s an example of how we can work through an extraordinarily complex matter that at times hasn’t been easy, to achieve a great result for our community while balancing the needs of all our 80,000 residents.”

A second reading of the Bill will occur in Parliament in the coming weeks. Further detail on the Bill is online at newplymouthnz.com and parliament.nz


FAST FACTS - New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill

Why are these lands so important?
The Crown’s attempt in 1860 to purchase the Pekapeka Block (a large portion of what is modern-day Waitara) sparked the first Taranaki War, which led to confiscation of Maori land. The Crown gifted confiscated land to local authorities for the development of a harbour and the township at Waitara.  

What are the leasehold lands?
Of the approximately 170 hectares of Council-owned endowment land in Waitara, 133ha was former Waitara Borough Council land held under the Waitara Harbour Act 1940, and the balance land that the Crown gave to borough authorities for municipal purposes under various pieces of legislation and Crown grants. Around 51ha are leased for around 700 homes on 21-year perpetual leases. The remainder is used for around 80 commercial and industrial perpetual leases, grazing, parks and reserves, and Council purposes, or is vacant, flood-prone land.

What is the Bill trying to achieve?
The Bill now:

  • Transfers almost half of the endowment land to iwi and/or hapu ownership.
  • Removes the restrictions on how income from the leasehold land can be used (which is currently limited to meeting administration costs and limited other purposes such as bridge maintenance). Fifty per cent of NPDC’s funds from the leasehold lands will go to a fund for Manukorihi and Otaraua hapū to enable them to own land in or around Waitara; the rest will go into a perpetual fund for the benefit of the Waitara community. Taranaki Regional Council’s funds from the leasehold land will be used on the Waitara River catchment.
  • Provides leaseholders the right to buy the freehold title to their properties at the current market value of the section.

What is the next step?
Parliament is scheduled to hold a second reading of the Bill on 9 August, although this is subject to Parliamentary processes.

Waitara Lands Bill timeline
1941: all endowment land in Waitara was in the hands of the Waitara Borough Council, one of NPDC’s predecessors.
1989: local government amalgamation in New Zealand. At its first standard council meeting, the newly formed New Plymouth District Council decides to freehold its leasehold lands in Waitara.
1992: NPDC introduces a Bill to Parliament but the Government raises concerns about the sale of such significant land and asks NPDC to try to reach a solution with Te Atiawa.
2002: NPDC starts a review of its position in relation to the Waitara leasehold lands, involving extensive public consultation.
30 March 2004: NPDC resolves to sell leasehold land to the Crown at fair market value for inclusion in Te Atiawa’s treaty settlement and withdraws its 1992 Bill.
31 March 2004: first court proceedings against the Council issue by Waitara Leaseholders Association.
4 November 2005: High Court decision against NPDC.
20 March 2007: Court of Appeal ruling in favour of NPDC.
14 May 2008: High Court strikes out six test cases of individual leaseholder claims against NPDC.
7 September 2010: conditional sale and purchase agreement entered into between the Crown and NPDC to enable endowment land to be used in the settlement.
23 August 2011: final individual leaseholder claim disposed of by Court of Appeal.
30 May 2014: NPDC advised by Office of Treaty Settlements and the Te Atiawa Iwi Authority of their decision not to include Waitara lands in the settlement.
8 August 2014: heads of agreement signed between NPDC and Te Kotahitangi o Te Atiawa (Te Atiawa’s post-settlement authority).
April to May 2016: public consultation on draft New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill.
14 September 2016: Bill introduced to Parliament.
21 September 2016: Bill’s first reading in Parliament and is referred to the Maori Affairs Select Committee.
2 August 2017: the committee recommends that Parliament approves the Bill.