Ngati Whatua wants to buy the $1.1 billion Ports of Auckland and is talking of joining other iwi and a financial giant to mount an ambitious approach to Mayor Phil Goff about a deal.
Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust spokesman Ngarimu Blair issued a surprise statement this morning: "Ngati Whatua Orakei has long harboured an ambition to buy back our former land and Waitemata seabed."
"We have made this known over many generations to every incoming mayor and, more recently, signalled this to Phil Goff before and after the election.
"If the opportunity arises we would like to buy it; we are the natural owner and we would do the right thing by the city," Blair said.
Ngati Whatua Orakei understood the wider public interest in the Waitemata and the desire of many people to keep the precious land in the hands of Aucklanders, he said.
"We are committed and able to put together a consortium that can achieve that goal while also releasing much-needed capital to continue to develop our great city. We look forward to raising this prospect again with the mayor," Blair said.
"The consortium could include other iwi and the NZ Super Fund [NZSF]."
The mayor responded by saying the land was not for sale.
"The Port land is not for sale. When freed up by relocation of the Port, it will be to create an iconic public space for the people of Auckland.
"My position on the future of the Port is exactly what I said during the campaign: I want to progress plans to relocate the Port from the CBD and free up 77 hectares of land for public access to the waterfront.
"The decision on the Port's future will be made by the elected representatives on the basis of evidence around best options.
"A relocation of the port will likely open up some residential and commercial development opportunities, as in the Wynyard Quarter, to fund development of public open space. While this development may be one to two decades out, I am happy to discuss with Ngati Whatua Orakei their role as the mana whenua in potential developments."
A Super Fund representative said this morning: "There have been no formal discussions between NZSF and Ngati Whatua and no proposal has been presented to us. We meet with Ngati Whatua and many other potential co-investors on a regular basis and discuss various investment opportunities informally. We are not part of any consortium. We are always interested in domestic investment opportunities that might meet our criteria."
Blair noted that the council owns 100 per cent of the port via Auckland Council Investments and how the port was most recently valued the company at $1.1b.
Ngati Whatua has a multi-million dollar asset base, building strongly since its Treaty settlement and it owns 20ha of waterfront land, immediately around the port.
It gets about $15 million a year in leasehold land payments for its significant holding around in the Quay Park area.
The iwi owns the land under Vector Arena, as well as the Countdown supermarket land on Quay St and the land under many apartment blocks, including the three Scene blocks on Beach Rd.