An eye on the island
More than 170ha of Matakana Island will be returned to iwi if public submissions rule in favour.
If successful, the eastern end of Matakana Island, Panepane and Purakau, will be returned to five Ngai te Rangi hapu from the Island.
Seven hectares around Panepane wharf will remain under Western Bay of Plenty District Council ownership and turned into a public reserve.
More than seven years of negotiations led up to a meeting on Tuesday, July 28, where the majority of WBOP district councillors voted in favour of the proposal’s progression in front of a full house of Matakana Island iwi.
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber says “it’s the right thing to do”.
“Council inherited the land at no cost, so we will return it at no cost.”
Webber says people can expect the reserve to be much like Kulim Park in Otumoetai, with facilities including picnic tables and public toilets.
“If the public give the go ahead, we will try get the basic tidying work done by Christmas.”
Matakana Island elder Hauata Palmer says the meeting’s outcome has hapu feeling optimistic that the land will be returned to them – almost 100 years after the Tauranga Harbour Board took ownership under the Public Works Act in 1923.
Ownership was transferred to the WBOPDC in 1989 under local government reforms.
“Since 1923, the land has been handed between a number of government organisations,” says Hauata.
“They calculated the value but there's no record of them paying it, so there's no proof of compensation.
“The WBOPDC certainly didn’t pay for it. In that time, they’ve profited from the pine forestry on the land.
“I hope people keep this in mind when making a submission.”
Forestry will continue on the island if the ownership is returned. The Council will retain ownership of the mature pine forest and harvest the area, before replanting it for the hapu.
Hauata says the hapu are looking at diversifying with native trees, including planting manuka to produce honey and oil.
“Owning land that size comes with costs, so we have to look at ways to make the land pay for itself.”
The Port of Tauranga’s access to navigation aids on the Island will also remain.
Hauata has lived on Matakana Island for 30 years and has been participating in land negotiations with council since 2013.
So what made this time different?
“Largely it has to do with the present mayor,” says Hauata.
“We have a lot to thank Garry for. He’s done a lot of work to get us this far.
“If the proposal is successful we’ll be celebrating, and we will ask the people who have supported the cause to join us. It’s been a long time coming.”
For proposal details and to make a submission, visit: haveyoursay.westernbay.govt.nz/panepane
The cut-off date is August 31.