Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Dipsticks right: find iwi another piece of land

Willie Jackson and John Tamihere. Photo / NZPA
Willie Jackson and John Tamihere. Photo / NZPA

Last week, Maori radio host Willie Jackson was homing in on the "greedy mongrels" and "Devonport dipsticks" trying to stop a 3.2ha block of Fort Takapuna "reserve" being sold to Ngati Whatua as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement package.

He and his co-host, John Tamihere, were incensed at local opposition to the Crown's plan to hock off this block of naval land, even though only 12 years before, Parliament had earmarked it for inclusion in the new Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

Messrs Jackson and Tamihere now appear to regard maintaining the dream - and integrity - of the park as anti-Maori. Which is something of a flip-flop given they both voted for it back in February 2000 as MPs in the Labour-Alliance government - along with just about every other MP in the House.

Speaking in favour of the new park at the time, Mr Tamihere's main complaint was about Maori having a minority voice in the associated forum. As for Mr Jackson, I could find no record of him speaking on the bill.

Perhaps he thought his Alliance colleague Sandra Lee, who shepherded the legislation through the House as Minister of Conservation, was doing a fine job on her own.

Another fan was former National Party MP for North Shore Wayne Mapp, who was right behind the inclusion of the naval land. He now seems happy with the decision to sell the controversial block. Yet in Parliament, in addressing the naval land, he said: "There is absolutely no doubt that the historic reserve, the historic fort itself, the coastal seaward strip, will be part of the park". This has all happened. Then he addressed the controversial 3.2ha block, saying: "I am sure with appropriate negotiation the balance of the land will also be in that park. So we have a unique opportunity here."

The unique opportunity Dr Mapp referred to was the chance to eventually include the whole of the naval establishment at the Fort Takapuna headland into the great, new, urban national park.

It was a unique and far-sighted concept, and in early 2000, as the first piece of legislation of the new millennium, parliamentarians gave it their blessing.

So much for far-sighted dreams. The Government wants to cut a piece out of the park, and when Ngati Whatua spokesman Ngarimu Blair says "to say we are disappointed by this flip-flopping is an understatement", he's not upset about the planned surgery. His annoyance is over his backroom negotiations with the Crown being exposed.

None of the "greedy mongrels" and "Devonport dipsticks" I have spoken to are unsympathetic to Ngati Whatua's desire for redress. But, like them, I am disappointed by the flip-flopping as far as the park is concerned.

But instead of the aggrieved Ngati Whatua treating the park supporters as the enemy, they should be joining forces with them against the true villains - the politicians in Crown clothing.

The Crown over-promised in a move that was always destined to end in tears. It dangled the hope of free or cheap Auckland Crown land as part-compensation to Treaty claimants, knowing there wasn't enough to go around. Auckland Council discovered how vigilant you had to be. At one stage, they spotted that Crown negotiators were offering up Browns Island, offshore from St Heliers, as a potential piece of real estate for co-governance, even though it was a city reserve of long standing.

As for the Fort Takapuna land, the court has ruled its underlying status is reserve, and the park act requires that when/if the navy departs, the land is progressively incorporated into the park.

Ngati Whatua has been offered the remaining block adjacent to Vauxhall Rd as part of a "commercial redress" package in which the land is sold to the iwi, seemingly at mates' rates, then leased back to the navy. Then when the navy goes, it's up to the iwi what happens.

What a missed opportunity that would be. The park is a place for all Aucklanders, not just "Devonport dipsticks". It doesn't need a commercial development intruding on to this unique promontory.

The win-win solution is to find a block of land somewhere else that Ngati Whatua can buy. If it requires a subsidy from the Crown to match the sweetheart deal on offer, then so be it.

Note: Due to an increasing amount of unpublishable emails, the comment feature has been turned off this article.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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