Matakana Island sale signals development

By Graham Skellern

An investment company with bold development plans has bought nearly 2000 hectares on Matakana Island, in Tauranga harbour.

Matakana Investment Group bought all the shares in Te Kotukutuku Corporation - and as a result the group has taken control of the large forested block on the eastern side of the island.

The proceeds of the sale - the amount was not disclosed - went to 27 family groups either living on, or having strong connections with the island.

The bulk of the money was paid out to local shareholders earlier this year but an amount has been retained in a trust.

Up to twelve groups resisted the sales and have retained shares in smaller blocks of land.

TKC Holdings, the commercial arm of Te Kotukutuku, had been looking to develop some of its land for 15 years to improve the prosperity of the island.

TKC Holdings eventually formed a joint venture with Kapiti-based development company Pritchard Group which had plans for an exclusive Pauanui-style residential retreat built around man-made canals and private beaches on 75ha of the coastline near Hunters Creek sawmill.

There was going to be up to 200 sections and eight canals with access via a single waterway on the harbour side of the island.

Pritchard's project, called Matakana Waterways, was unveiled four years ago - but the development company backed off because of a local opposition.

"We got such a hard time that everything was put on hold till we got our plan properly together," said David Pritchard, chief executive of Pritchard Group.

"We are looking to do something on the island and we are slowly working away with all the parties, both on the island and the councils," he said.

Pritchard Group is one of eight investors in Matakana Investment Group which was incorporated in September 2004. The investors come from Wellington, Otaki, Raglan, Auckland and Tauranga.

A Matakana Investment director Brian Fitzgerald told the Bay of Plenty Times that his group will fit in with want the local community wants - it could be a marine project that takes place over 30 to 50 years.

He said there still wasn't any plans drawn up and the investment group had to go through the resource consent process.

Earlier, Pritchard had organised a 200-year lease with TKC Holdings on the 75ha development area. TKC hoped to use revenue from the waterways development to fund educational and technical training scholarships for the Matakana Islanders.

However, it then decided to sell its land. Former TKC chairman John Neill said some of the shareholders were getting older and wanted to enjoy their money; it was a bit of a windfall.

He said they had spent a lot of time on development proposals and they were approached by the Matakana Investment Group.

"I guess they got fed up with the continual aggravation and annoyance about people stepping in at the last minute and scuttling the plans. It became very bitter and the (TKC) shareholders just wanted out - they had fought for so long."

Mr Neill felt the new landowner could achieve more, and he was confident the majority of the 2000 ha block would remain in forestry.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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