Auckland's most influential tribe is planning a massive new residential project on the edge of its hard-won Bastion Pt land, where up to 6000 whanau could eventually live.
Rob Hutchison, chief executive of Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Rawa - the newly formed commercial arm of the hapu - said consultants had been engaged for the Orakei Papakainga project, which would lease the land but not sell it.
Under the plan, multi-level residential blocks would be developed on the Kupe St side of the hilltop block to the northwest, with vistas over Okahu Bay and across the Hauraki Gulf.
Bastion Point became a byword for Maori rights in the 1970s when protesters led by Joe Hawke occupied it to block the Muldoon Government's attempt to sell the land for high-income housing.
The 507-day peaceful occupation ended in May 1978 when 800 police and the army forcibly removed the occupiers. Eventually, the Government apologised and returned the land.
Mr Hutchison said Ngati Whatua wanted to use a small portion of vacant land, partly to redress issues of affordability and access to housing for tangata whenua but also for commercial opportunity and to be sold to anyone, as the powerful business grows its $317.4 million-plus asset base.
However, the plan faces a financial hurdle because the land is under Maori leasehold tenure.
Mr Hutchison, a former Valuer General and CEO of the old North Shore City Council, said lenders were often reluctant to grant mortgages on such properties, which were unable to be sold in the event of defaults.
"The banking system doesn't reflect Maori land ownership models. That's why, when you drive around the country, you see relocatable single-level houses on marae because some of the funders have wanted the ability to take the houses off.
"Some of the most desirable sites have single-level houses on stilts, which is not really an ideal use of the land. We're coming up with our own strategy, trying to work with the Auckland Council as well as others."
Some dwellings will be for iwi members. Others will be sold, but never freeholded. Images show apartment or terraced-style housing, rising up to four levels at some points.
The plans are to concentrate the housing along the Kupe St ridge in townhouse and apartment-style dwellings, clustered to maintain openness between the structures.
"If we provide housing based on one dwelling per 450sq m, then we can only fit approximately 900 more whanau on the land. If we build up, we can comfortably fit 6000 whanau on the land," the iwi said in its newsletter when planning the project.
A BNZ spokesman said lending to iwi posed issues.
"It's not that we can't, it's just different, more complicated, and due to these challenges, freehold title security is the most common form of security," the spokesman said.
"The beneficial ownership of a Maori land title typically links back to, say, a hapu, so multiple ownership of more than 50 people is not uncommon. To undertake any sort of transaction, you need collective stakeholder consent."
• Potential for 6000 whanau to live on the papakainga
• 'Cuzzie Corps' instead of Body Corp to manage rubbish, common areas
• Hangi pits, pools, sheds, play areas planned
• Pooling money to help pay mortgages, rent