2 Sep 2015

Family could lose ancestral land twice

6:07 am on 2 September 2015

An East Coast family fears they could lose their ancestral land not once, but twice.

The land which was taken by the Government 63 years ago under the Public Works Act is now being offered back at market price but the family can not raise the funds and the clock is ticking.

From 1908 the Crown took Maori lands using the Public Works Act with neither consultation, price negotiation nor advance notice to owners.

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A family fears its land in Gisborne, lost once to the Crown could be lost forever. Photo: Wikicommons

According to Mathew Natanahira Taare that is exactly what happened to his grandfather's land in Awapuni, Gisborne in 1952.

Mr Taare said his grandfather told the family that no payment was paid and he was not aware the land had been taken until he was turned away at the gate afterwards. The land near a lagoon was considered a traditional food bowl of the Turanga people.

But learning about its recent history has left a sour taste in Mr Taare's mouth. He said a beacon was erected on the acre of land in 1952. Mr Taare said his family have not had the opportunity to use the land or develop it because it has been used by the Crown.

He is disgusted that after being dislocated from the land for such a long period of time they now have to buy it back.

Documents suggest £120 was originally paid to 15 owners and when it became unwanted by the Airways Corporation two years ago, descendants were offered it back at market price.

Mr Taare is the youngest of the descendants, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s. He believes the land should be handed back on compassionate grounds as the loss of land has limited their ability to prosper.

Land Information New Zealand told Radio New Zealand any business decisions to do with the sale of this land, including the price, were a matter for Airways Corporation.

Airways Corporation spokesperson Emily Davies said it sympathised deeply with tangata whenua with regards to the Awapuni 1F3 land sale.

Ms Davies said Airways was committed to continuing to act in good faith, in accordance with the Public Works Act.

The family has also tried local iwi Rongowhakaata who said they were not in a position to lend money while Te Tumu Paeroa, the Maori Trustee, could only offer title information which came at a cost.

If the family are unable to come up with the $110,000 the land will be put on the market.

Mr Taare, who holds the same name as his great grandfather Natanahira, said he must do all he can to retain his tipuna land as an example for his children.

A decision is expected to be made on the sale of Awapuni block 1F3 tomorrow.

If it is sold the whanau will consider occupying the land so as Mr Taare said they could at least feel the land bequeathed to them under their feet, one last time.