Ownership of the eastern end of Matakana Island is set to return to five local hapū.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council inherited the 172 hectares, commonly known as Panepane Purakau, at no cost from the Tauranga Harbour Board under local government reforms in 1989 and was now proposing the land be returned to its ancestral owners.
The proposed transfer agreement would create 7ha public reserve to ensure public access to the foreshore was protected in perpetuity, the council said today.
This meant people would still be able to enjoy activities like fishing off the wharf, walking along the beach and using the recreational areas close to Panepane Purakau, such as water-skiing lanes.
District mayor Garry Webber said today's decision at an open council meeting, in which several of the Island's hapū representatives were present, signalled a strong vote of confidence from elected members in the proposed transfer of ownership.
Over the past five years the council had worked alongside tangata whenua to explore a number of options for a proposed return of ownership of Panepane Purakau and Webber was confident the proposed agreement would achieve great outcomes for the council, tangata whenua and the community.
"Council received the land at no cost and has been a good steward of this whenua over the years, but we now have the chance to do the right thing and transfer the land back to the five hapū of Matakana Island.
"For tangata whenua, we are hopeful that the transfer goes a long way to mending the significant hurt the hapū faced when their land was taken by the Crown under the Public Works Act in 1923 and allows us to move forward together," he said.
The five hapū that connect to Matakana Island are part of Ngai te Rangi iwi and include Ngai Tuwhiwhia, Ngāti Tauaiti, Te Ngare, Te Whānau a Tauwhao and Ngai Tamawhariua.
Ngai te Rangi Iwi kaumatua Hauata Palmer said it would be a historic day for the hapū of the island when the land was returned. There was finally light at the end of the tunnel, he said.
"We hope this is the time. The island community will create plans to make good use of the land for our children and grandchildren. This does not necessarily mean a fiscal return, but what will be best for future generations and best for the land.
"The concept of hapū ownership existed prior to European settlement so it is not a new phenomenon. It was a simple matter to create and register a hapū entity under existing legislation to accommodate the land transfer," Palmer said.
to midday Monday August 31. TThe public now have until August 31 to give feedback about the proposed return of ownership via www.haveyoursay.westernbay.govt.nz/Panepane or at the council's library and service centres.
"Ultimately, though, the decision rests with the council as elected members of the community."
The council will be holding community open days at: •s Opureora Marae, Matakana Island, Saturday August 8 (10am-2pm)
• Omokoroa Boat Club, Saturday August 15 (10am-2pm)
• Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club, Saturday August 22 (10am-2pm)