Waitara leaseholders 'running out of time'

10:07 am on 9 September 2015

The owner of a leasehold property on land confiscated from Te Atiawa following the Taranaki Land Wars is worried he won't live to see it made freehold.

An aerial view of Taranaki town Waitara

An aerial view of Taranaki town Waitara Photo: Phillip Capper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Jonathan Marshall is a member of the Waitara Leaseholders group, which represents the 780 leasehold property owners in the Taranaki town.

Mr Marshall said he was promised he would be able to freehold his home when he moved in 30 years ago, but he was little closer to that goal today.

"I'm not too sure I'll live enough, to be fair. When I was chairperson of the Waitara Leasehoders Association in the 2004-2005 period, we had a number of members who were in their 70s and 80s and had been working with councils for 50 years because they were always told - that carrot in front of them - that they were going to get the opportunity to freehold and it never came up," the 58-year-old financial planner said.

"And they've now gone, I mean they've now passed away, and we're now left holding the flag - and there are people younger than me wanting to pick up the flag and try to fight against council."

Land confiscation to local bill

A disputed land deal at the Pekapeka block in Waitara sparked the Taranaki Land Wars in the 1860s, which eventually led to the confiscation of much of the land in the area.

Last year, the New Plymouth District Council offered to transfer the Waitara leases to Te Atiawa for $23 million as part its $87 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown.

The iwi, however, refused to take them and has instead entered into an agreement with the council to take a local bill to Parliament, which would allow for the leases to be freeholded.

But that has become bogged down as the parties try knuckle out a deal that works for everyone.

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Trust chair Liana Poutu said she had some sympathy for the leaseholders' position.

"The council and our trust are working through some options that will allow freeholding but will also provide a bit of a footprint for Te Atiawa within Waitara, especially given the historical significance of what occurred there.

"And I know there's probably some frustration at how long it's taking but it's not a straightforward process as I'm sure people will understand."

Ms Poutu said part of what was being worked out was who would get the proceeds of the sale of any leases or revenues generated by leases that were maintained by people not in a position to freehold.

The New Plymouth District Council said it was aiming to complete the local bill and present it to Parliament before the council's term ends in October next year.

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