Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Evicted family call on iwi to occupy Coromandel property

A Coromandel Peninsula family have begun occupying land and a house owned by the Department of Conservation in an effort to remain as tenants.

The McLean family have called on about 40 iwi members to occupy the 1.2ha block at Kuaotunu, near Matarangi, after DOC terminated their seven-year tenancy late last year.

Victor McLean said he and his wife, Tania, and their three children, aged 12, 14 and 19, wanted to remain at the property on Waitaia Rd, where Mr McLean says he has been acting as kaitiaki or guardian of the land.

Mr McLean said the land, deemed public reserve by DoC, belonged to Maori, and his wife signed a tenancy agreement only to ensure the landlords maintained the property.

But the 48-year-old forestry trapper claimed DoC did not carry out urgent repairs needed to a septic tank and the couple began withholding the $180-a-week rent to pay for that and other maintenance.

This was after DoC wrote to them at Christmas terminating the tenancy and giving them 90 days to leave the house.

"They aren't the owners," Mr McLean said. "I asked them [DoC] to produce a letter of sale and they could not."

He claimed DoC wanted them off the land because it had been identified as a gold prospecting site.

Under the Treaty of Waitangi the land still belonged to Maori because Maori had not sold it to the Crown, Mr McLean said. When the tenancy terminated on March 24 and the family had not left, DoC took action through the Tenancy Tribunal.

The McLeans paid back the $2500 they were in arrears, but did not turn up to the hearing and after several extensions the tribunal ruled in favour of DoC.

Mr McLean's application for a rehearing was dismissed last week in the Thames District Court and they were ordered to leave by 4pm on Monday.

"We've got nowhere else to go," Mr McLean said. "We just want to stay here."

Mr McLean said the family wanted to remain in the house until a Treaty of Waitangi claim by Hauraki Maori representatives, which could include the property, was finalised.

But DoC Hauraki service programme manager Greg Dyer said the claim was only in the early stages of negotiations and had not identified parcels of land yet.

He said the termination of the tenancy had nothing to do with the tenants and was undertaken because DoC wanted to carry out site work on the land.

Mr Dyer denied DoC wanted to mine the land and said it was not in its mandate to do so.

He said DoC had paid for the septic tank maintenance and the McLeans were in breach of their tenancy agreement by carrying out other works on the property without permission.

Mr Dyer said DoC would now pursue eviction through the courts.

- NZ Herald

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