The proposal to return part of Matakana Island to Māori has already prompted an encouraging level of interest from people keen to have their say.
On July 28, Western Bay of Plenty District Council voted to consult on a proposal to return Panepane Point, also known as Purakau, to five Ngai te Rangi hapū. Like Mauao, the land will remain open to public access.
Submissions close at midday on Monday. All feedback on the proposal remains confidential until then.
The council's group manager of policy, planning and regulatory, Rachael Davie said: "We've been incredibly encouraged with the level of engagement both in the form of submissions received but also attendance at the four community information sessions held to date at Matakana Island, Ōmokoroa, Te Puke and Tauranga."
The last information day is being held on Thursday at The Centre - Pātuki Manawa, Katikati, from 3pm to 7pm.
Davie said the proposal to transfer the land was of high public interest.
"With this in mind, council has undertaken a thorough communications approach to enable people to share their views online, via hard copy or at one of the five community information days. A comprehensive mix of print and social media has ensured interested people are well aware of the available ways to share their views," she said.
"The only recent comparison to make is to council's consultation on three water-related bylaws (Trade Waste Bylaw, Stormwater Bylaw, Water Supply Systems Bylaw). The scope of proposed amendments for these three bylaws was narrow, very technical in nature and of low public interest. Accordingly, submission numbers were very low [by comparison] for this consultation process."
Submissions on the Panepane Point proposal will be analysed by council staff immediately after the feedback shut-off. The feedback will become publicly available on September 24, once all hard-copy submissions have been collated, she said.
"By far the majority of submissions have been received electronically through the online feedback form on council's 'haveyoursay.westernbay' engagement platform," Davie said.
The council will deliberate on the proposal and make a final decision on October 29.
People can find out more and have their say by visiting the council's website or by visiting the district's libraries or visiting the open day on Thursday. How we got to this point:
• Panepane Point was among land confiscated following the 1864 battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga. The land was transferred back to Maori owners in 1877, then acquired by the Government in 1923 under the Public Works Act.
• The land's return now is not directly connected to the confiscation. The council and hapū have been working to return the land since 2013, resulting in yesterday's decision.
• The land spans about 178 hectares of the island and is spread across two legal titles known as Panepane and Purakau. It is used for forestry purposes but also hosts Port of Tauranga navigational aids. It is also the most visible part of Matakana Island from Mount Maunganui and Tauranga city.
• At a Tauranga Moana and Te Arawa ki Takutai Partnership Forum on February 10, 2020, representatives from the island's five hapū reiterated their long-held desire to have the land returned to them.
- The proposed transfer agreement would see a 7ha reserve created to ensure public access to the foreshore is protected in perpetuity.
Source: Western Bay of Plenty District Council