Guest post by Mike Butler
Residents of the small Coromandel town of Pauanui are upset that the beachfront strip of land that encircles their town has been offered as part of a settlement to local treaty claimants, Ngati Hei. Pauanui, located just over 40km south of Whitianga, is a popular destination for Auckland holidaymakers in the summer, when the town’s population swells from 740 to 15,000.
The Pauanui Ratepayer and Residents Association said that government treaty negotiator Mike Dreaver, with co-operation from the Thames Coromandel District Council, had offered Ngati Hei sites including the entire Pauanui beachfront reserve and Estuary reserve, effectively “ring fencing” Pauanui from the water.
Pauanui properties there with views of the ocean regularly sell for over $1-million. The reserve would have little commercial value to Ngati Hei unless reserve status is revoked, which may be done by the government of the day.
Should reserves status be revoked, owners of million dollar beach front Pauanui properties face the prospect of having large houses built between them and the sea, blocking ocean views and eroding their property values.
“The entire process was carried out without any public consultation of stakeholders,” a statement from the Pauanui Ratepayer association said. “Other than public knowledge that in general terms treaty settlement negotiations were being carried out, the only specific document we located was a list of several hundred sites identified as suitable for settlement purposes published in 2011.”(1)
Ngati Hei claims to have lived in the area for 1000 years and keep alive the memory of massacres of their forebears in the early 1800s by Nga Puhi. The Ngati Hei Trust Board represents an estimated 350 members.(2)
Two pages on the tribe’s website devoted to “land struggles” don’t say that their forebears sold the land, preferring to characterise their land history as of “loss and confiscation for hundreds of years. However, Henry Hansen Turton’s record shows more than 60 land sales deeds for Coromandel.(3)
The Agreement in Principal between Ngati Hei, as part of the Hauraki Collective, and the Crown implies land sales by forebears as the main issue in complaints about the Native Land Court, individualisation of title, pre-1840 purchases and the pre-emption waiver that allowed direct negotiations between Maori vendors and non-Maori buyers.
The Pauanui ratepayer association wrote to Prime Minister John Key expressing concern that these reserves will pass from crown to private ownership, pointing out that Pauanui has no great cultural or historical significance, and stressing that giving away the reserves would have a huge impact on a large number of affected third parties.
A group including representatives from the Pauanui ratepayer association met Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, Coromandel MP Scott Simpson and Thames-Coromandel Mayor Glenn Leach on Friday, January 3. Pauanui representatives put forward 15 questions while arguing that reserves must remain in Crown ownership. The Government was expected to report back within 15 days.
At the meeting and in a subsequent press release, Finlayson said that “this settlement has nothing to do with the foreshore and seabed.” However, Clause 11e of the agreement in principle notes that the Hauraki Collective also seeks that the historical account includes a statement saying “the Crown unilaterally suspended the rule of law when inconvenient foreshore and seabed decisions were made by the judiciary.”
The ratepayers group stressed that Pauanui property owners have a reasonable expectation that the reserves around their town (shown as Crown reserves in original advertising material) would remain in Crown hands and the use and enjoyment of these would remain unchanged.
“This is an issue that affects all property owners,” the Pauanui group said, “with ramifications for all communities with Crown owned property.”
They are considering a national advertising and awareness campaign, lobbying of MPs, withholding rates, and possibly a class action. Waitara, where 769 leasehold sections are under offer to Te Ati Awa, is another area where a treaty settlement is affecting ratepayers.(4)
Dreaver, who was happy to negotiate away beach front reserves in a treaty settlement, last year was named the top-earning treaty negotiator, earning $1.5-million in fees since 2008.(5)
1. “Ngati Hei and the Crown – Agreement in Principle Equivalent – July 2011.” http://nz01.terabyte.co.nz/ots/DocumentLibrary/NgatiHeiAIPE.pdf
2. Ngati Hei home page, www.ngatihei.iwi.nz
3. Maori Deeds of Land Sales in the North Island of New Zealand, Vol 1. http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Tur01Nort.html
4. Land wars to lease wars, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/9542321/Land-wars-to-lease-wars
5. Treaty cases earn top dollar for ‘top team,’ http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8314679/Treaty-cases-earn-top-dollar-for-top-team
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