25 May 2015

Bach law deadline looms

9:35 pm on 25 May 2015

Some bach owners in west Auckland say a 'gun is been held to their heads' in a piece of Treaty of Waitangi legislation.

Te Henga - Bethells Beach.

Te Henga - Bethells Beach. Photo: 123rf

They have been given until the end of this week to sign up to limited legal access to their holiday homes - or lose their guaranteed right of way all together.

It is getting tense for the owners of three holiday homes overlooking the Tasman at west Auckland.

The properties are at a stunning location - up on the dunes - at a couple of favourite surf spots - between Te Henga-Bethells Beach and O'Neills Bay.

The issue's all about ongoing right to way to the homes - a right of way, which up to now, has been over Department of Conservation land.

But there's a problem for the bach owners: the land with access tracks to the homes is being handed back to Te Kawerau-ā-Maki as part of the tribe's treaty settlement.

The issue's been going on a little while, but the owners have now been given a deadline - the end of this week.

On the table: take a limited access agreement being offered by the Minister of Conservation - or have no legal protection.

Jim Harre's access track to O'Neill's Bay.

Jim Harre's access track to O'Neill's Bay. Photo: Supplied

And with that deadline looming, Jim Harre, one of the bach owners, says they don't know what to do.

"We've been given a deadline of May 29th to either accept a finite right-of-way, that will terminate in 60-years or get nothing.

"Basically we have a gun held to our heads. We have no control over any of the other parties involved in this, the surveyor, Te Kawerau-ā-Maki or the Crown. Either way we will be land-locked as a result of an admitted muck-up by the Crown as part of its Treaty settlement."

Mr Harre says their wish is a simple one: a permanent right of way, not one that's limited to 60 years at a time under the Conservation Act.

"It is very easy to change. The Minister has the ability to grant access for more than 60 years under the Conservation Act and we are a little bit dumbfounded as to why that isn't happening.

"It is not like anything new has been created, it is just formalising something that has been taking place for the last 60 years. So it can be sorted out, it can be solved. It shouldn't be particularly difficult to do."

Mr Harre says the clock is ticking for him and the other bach owners.

"We've got until the 29th of May to get everything signed, surveyors done, the negotiations between Te Kawerau-ā-Maki and ourselves in terms of what conditions should exist in terms of the easement and then we need to sign up for 60-years and it's a finite term and at the end, access disappears completely. We need to sign by the 29th or we lose everything."

Chris Finlayson speaking to Ngati Hineuru.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

MPs on the Māori Affairs Select Committee have already scrutinsed the proposed Treaty settlement law for Te Kawerau ā Maki and said no to a permanent right of way.

The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations has seen that committee's report - and he agrees with it.

Chris Finalyson's office issued this statement:

"The Minister is guided by the Conservation Act 1987. It provides that easements (including right-of-way easements) may be granted for a term not exceeding 30 years and in exceptional circumstances up to 60 years. Te Kawerau-ā-Maki has offered a 60-year easement to the bach owners.

The Minister notes that the Committee states that there has never been formalised legal access across the land in question. A renewable easement would legally recognise access for vehicles and utilities."

The Minister's office also says bach owners would have the right of judicial review if their request for a renewed right of way is unreasonably rejected by Te Kawerau-ā-Maki.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs