Regional Economic Development and Forestry Minister Shane Jones backs $50 million-plus plans by American billionaire Ric Kayne to develop further golf courses on leased Māori land north of Auckland.
Jones, also associate Finance and Transport Minister, applauded Kayne's plans to build two new courses beside the exclusive members-only Tara Iti south of Mangawhai where ex-US president Barack Obama played last year.
"It's positive. Obviously, it's an addition to New Zealand tourism infrastructure, taking a lot of low-value forest wasteland and converting it to a higher-use and enabling tangata whenua to try to realise some of their settlement assets," Jones said of the twin-course plans.
"It's no secret I've been there several times," he said of the existing neighbouring established Tara Iti, ranked the world's 11th best course by Golf Digest. "If it works out for tangata whenua, it is good news from a regional economic viewpoint."
Kayne told the Herald on Friday how he plans to build the two new courses on the Mangawhau South Forest, along with new visitor accommodation, a clubhouse, 60 new lots for homes, a public camping ground near the beach and a retail centre for food and surfing shops.
Jones expressed enthusiasm for Tara Iti.
"I've been there several times, obviously with the connection with tangata whenua," Jones said, referring to Te Uri o Hau which sold land to the venture Kayne and business associate John Darby formed to develop the 18-hole Tara Iti.
But Jones said he was concerned that Kayne had already gifted around 200ha at Tara Iti as a reserve contribution to gain resource consent and part of Ngati Manuhiri's land would also be given to the council for the next stage.
"I feel they got done in the eye by excessive requirements of Auckland Council," Jones said of Ngati Manuhiri land which is now a reserve.
"It's pathetic that, having received land back in Treaty settlement, they have to cough more. Auckland Council took the land off them in order to satisfy resource consent requirements and there would be no compensation," Jones said.
"It's always made me feel the boundary of Auckland council has gone too far north and is interfering in the development.
A 172ha public reserve minimum is set down in the Auckland Unitary Plan under the Te Arai North Precinct provisions.
That tells how the reserve is required in return for creating 43 new rural residential sites.
"The precinct provides for subdivision for limited rural residential sites in exchange for a significantly large area of public conservation and reserve along the coast. This reserve will form part of a more extensive network of reserve land extending to the Te Arai South Forest," the plan says.
Auckland Council said it had not yet received a resource consent application for the two new courses or associated infrastructure. Land Information NZ said it had not yet received an application from Kayne to lease the Ngati Manuhiri land.
In response to Jones' comments, a spokesman for Kayne said that politician's support for the scheme was most welcome. Eugenie Sage, Conservation Minister, said she "wouldn't comment on an application until a decision is made".
The Department of Conservation is also yet to respond to questions about Kayne's plans.
Mook Hohneck, chairman of the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust, said negotiations were under way to lease to Kayne part of the 764ha the tribe bought as part of its Treaty settlement but says some land has been sold and part is already reserve.
"We're discussing with Kayne to lease part of the land which the settlement trust owns, to fulfil the tribal aspirations, both commercial and cultural.
"We want to realise the potential for the land. Because of our size and commercial capability, we see it as advantageous to have secure relationships with strategic partners, built on trust, honesty and goodwill."