AS POLITICIANS hailed yesterday's roading announcement, members of local iwi said they were disappointed questions regarding Maori land designated for a major highway project had still not been answered.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges was in Rotorua yesterday to announce a $24 million roading package for the upgrading of Te Ngae Rd, but left the door open regarding what the Government would do with land designated in 1964 for a major highway known as the Rotorua Eastern Arterial (REA).
According to a statement released by Mr Bridges, the intended route for the REA was designated as a state highway in 1963, meaning there was an official intention from the Government to build a road along the route.
The purpose of the designation was to ensure landowners were aware of the intention and potential for a road to be built.
Lifting the designation would provide certainty to local landowners that a road would not be built there in future, "but the Government wants to be certain that the REA is not required before lifting it, because once it is lifted the land will be able to be used for other things thereby making it difficult to repurpose as a state highway in the future".
"For some time the REA was seen as the long-term solution but investigations have recommended upgrading State Highway 30/Te Ngae Rd to support growth and improve Rotorua's congestion issues," Mr Bridges said.
"Nevertheless, the Government has asked the NZTA to take a further look into options for Rotorua's long-term transport network and report back before any final decision is made on whether to lift the designation for the REA."
Three iwi have land held under the designation - Hurunga te Rangi, Te Roro o te Rangi and Ngati Uenukukopako.
Hurunga te Rangi spokesman Michael Staite said he thought yesterday would be a day for celebration. "We knew an announcement was coming ... but it didn't extend to what we thought it was going to.
"We actually thought we would be celebrating today with the lifting of the designation, but no such luck.
"With the REA still on the table, we'll be making a lot of noise now," he said.
Te Roro o te Rangi spokesman Matt Heke said he was happy the Government was spending money to upgrade Te Ngae Rd, but the designation hindered iwi aspirations for its land.
"We were part of the discussion, just it didn't follow through to where we thought, so a bit disappointed at the end of the day.
"Nothing much has changed and we are still fighting that same battle to have it removed.
"Until we see it gone that's when we will know we have been successful."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she would go into bat for local iwi to have the designation overturned and the land returned.
"This historic injustice needs to be addressed for local iwi to allow them an opportunity to manage and develop that land.
"If this package of investment announced by the Minister leads to that, this is a very important principle decision for us as a council," she said.
"There is no long-term need for that road for the next 20-50 years."