Returning paper roads to a Western Bay of Plenty marae is “partially undoing a significant wrong”.
Four paper roads owned by the Western Bay of Plenty District Council were given back to the Tawhitinui Marae in Whakamārama at a council meeting on Thursday.
The return of the land will aid the marae’s papakāinga project and enable them to build four extra affordable homes, bringing the total to 20.
Council chief executive John Holyoake said: “Not only are we providing additional housing where it’s needed, we’re partially undoing a significant wrong.”
Tawhitinui Marae chairman Brian Nicholas told Local Democracy Reporting: “It’s good to have land back that was taken from us.”
The marae, at 490 Old Highway Rd, is one four that affiliates with Pirirākau hapū of Ngāti Ranginui iwi.
After the battles of Pukehinahina and Te Ranga in 1864, 214,000 acres (86,600ha) of land were confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863.
Of this land, about 93,000 acres from the Te Puna stream to Ngā Kuri a Wharei (Bowentown) were purchased by the Crown at 2 shillings 5 pence an acre.
The consent of the nine chiefs who signed the preliminary agreement did not adequately represent the interests of the hapū within the Te Puna-Katikati rohe and the purchase was strongly opposed by Pirirākau, according to kaimahere matua Corey Gaunt’s report to the council.
Speaking after the meeting, Nicholas said 20 whānau were already signed up for homes and the earthworks would begin on Monday.
”Our people struggle, it’s just so hard to get into housing.”
The 2018 Census showed 29.8 per cent of people who affiliate to Ngāti Ranginui own their home. The papakāinga range from two to four bedrooms and would be next to the marae.
”It’s going bring people back to the marae and we need that,” Nicholas said.
”That’s a real positive, the marae is kept warm.”
Another positive was the approach the council had taken to returning the land, Nicholas said.
Previously, it had been in the “too hard basket” and the marae and council had had numerous meetings over the years, he said.
”After a number of meetings, probably too many meetings, we actually start to see something physical, which is the exciting bit.”
The Tawhitinui Marae Trust secured $2.5 million of Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga funding from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. This would enable it to build the infrastructure required for the homes.
Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga is a four-year, $730m commitment to speed up the delivery of Māori-led housing.
Councillor Don Thwaites said: “Occasionally, good things happen here at council and progress happens and this is one of those days.”
District Mayor James Denyer said it was a “special moment” to support the need for more houses and return of the land to tangata whenua. He said it was unlikely the paper roads would have been able to be used for the purpose for which they were taken.
Councillor Grant Dally said he hoped the change in government wouldn’t affect initiatives such as Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga.
Thwaites said he was looking forward to the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the marae when the papakāinga were finished.
Nicholas didn’t give a timeframe for when the homes would be completed, but said they wanted to get their people in there as soon as possible.
– Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air