Iwi Partnership with Council to unlock potential of Māori Land

By Piripi Taylor

A parcel of Māori land has been identified as the preferred site for a major development in the Easter Bay of Plenty. 

10 hectares just east of the Whakatāne Bridge looks set to be the site of a fit-for-purpose boat harbour, which has been identified as an infrastructural priority if potential for the marine and tourism sectors to drive economic development in the District is to be unlocked.

The signing of a Heads of Agreement between Rangitāiki Lot 28B No 22 Block Ahu Whenua Trust, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings Limited and Whakatāne District Council this week formalizes a partnership to seek opportunities with Central Government for improved cultural, community, economic and environmental outcomes, as part of the Whakatāne Regeneration Programme. 

In a statement this week, Whakatāne District Mayor Tony Bonne says the Rangitāiki 28B block was confirmed as the preferred site following a robust multi-criteria analysis process.

“A due diligence process has been undertaken on several boat harbour location options by project partners Whakatāne District Council and Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa, along with industry specialists and key stakeholders,” he says.

“This location has been identified as the preferred site for a number of reasons including cost, transport logistics, scalability, capacity, accessibility, its low environmental impact and the acknowledgement of the significance that the river holds for Ngāti Awa.

“One focus of the Government’s funding model is enhancing and improving the potential for Māori land to provide a platform for sustainable economic development,” he says. “I believe this is the most exciting development opportunity we have had in decades, and there is the ability to deliver that platform with this project, along with massive benefits to the whole District.”

Chair of Rangitāiki 28B No 22 Trust, Brian Simpson says, if successful, the project will transform the future of the trust and its ability to support its owners.

“Comparatively, ours is a small Māori land block but we have lots of owners, so generating enough productivity to facilitate meaningful returns can be extremely challenging. What we’ve identified here is an opportunity that will ultimately enable us to provide long-term and holistic benefits that will actually make a considerable impact on the wellbeing of the collective.

“It’s about far more than money and revenue for us,” says Mr Simpson. “We’re firmly focussed on the opportunity for our humble trust to play a vital role  in the Whakatāne marine and tourism sector and what that might mean in terms of leveraging that position to spring-board our rangatahi into careers in those sectors.”