Whakatāne signs off land transfer to Kawerau

12:40 pm on 30 March 2020

A land transfer between Whakatāne and Kawerau should have wide-reaching benefits for the entire Eastern Bay of Plenty, says Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell.

Kawerau District Council

Photo: Charlotte Jones / LDR

Whakatāne District Council has approved Kawerau District Council's request to alter the boundary between the two districts to expand its industrial land.

The proposal seeks to add 478 hectares to Kawerau to allow increased industrial development in the town.

If approved by the Local Government Commission, the transfer of land would occur in two stages. The first would see an extension to the Kawerau Putauaki Industrial Park and would also see Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau's Te Tohia o te Rangi Marae and Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau Farm included in the Kawerau district.

Stage two would see the inclusion of the Pulp and Paper Waste Treatment and Disposal Site into the Kawerau district and an adjustment to the boundary at Onepu Springs Road as it currently runs down the middle.

Campbell said companies in the industrial park wanted to expand their operations but preferred to do it under only one council's regulations and planning systems rather than two.

"We would like to extend the boundary for the industrial park on Putauaki Trust land," Campbell said.

"Some of this land has been earmarked already for development, one company in particular is looking at a sizeable chunk.

"It's good local government to allow a single authority to provide and charge for all the infrastructure. In some cases, we're already providing water to some properties which are in the Whakatāne district."

The land the companies would like to build on is not zoned for industrial use in the Whakatāne district, but would be if transferred to Kawerau.

"It's not just about what it'll do for my town, more than anything it's about what it'll do for the Eastern Bay," Campbell said.

He said increased economic development in one district would benefit others in the Eastern Bay as the economies of all districts were interlinked.

Bringing Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau's land into the Kawerau district was a cultural consideration as the iwi saw themselves as more closely aligned with Kawerau than Whakatāne.

"They have to enter their lands through Kawerau anyway, so that just makes sense."

It is estimated that the Whakatāne council will lose $26,215 in rating revenue through the land transfer each year. This represents 0.06 percent of its total rating revenue.

As part of the transfer, the Kawerau council will also take control of Fenton Mill Road / Valley Road.

This is an unsealed length of road just over 1000 metres in length that requires maintenance from time to time.

It is not expected that the savings on maintenance costs to the Whakatāne council will make up for the loss of rates, the shortfall of which would have to be spread out across the Whakatāne district.

Campbell said he didn't see any issue with getting the land transfer cleared with the Local Government Commission as both councils had agreed already.

"It's just a formality now," he said.

If approved the change could be finalised in a matter of months.

Kawerau was founded in 1953 as a mill town for the Tasman Pulp and Paper Company in what was formerly referred to as Onepu. The Whakatāne County Council at the time declined to take control of the town due to concerns it would put excessive demands on its resources so Kawerau town became the smallest district council in the country.

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