Tamaki Makaurau iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has an easy out for Auckland mayor Wayne Brown’s financial crisis: sell back the port land that was stolen from Māori.
Brown said he had no comment at this stage but this was something the council could look at long-term.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei deputy chairman Ngarimu Blair said the iwi has made the offer to all former Auckland supercity mayors, including John Banks, to release the 55 hectares locked up at the Auckland waterfront.
He says the iwi has long sought the return of its harbours, which were taken without the tribe’s consent.
“We have made it clear to successive Auckland mayors that we are open, willing and able to purchase council assets it is selling, such as the Ports of Auckland,” Blair told the Herald.
“The Waitematā seabed was taken from us via land reclamation without our consent and we have a multigenerational grievance in relation to this loss. Yet despite this we are willing to purchase our asset and resource back if it is sold.
“From a council and Crown point of view it will receive market rates for an asset, while also providing justice to tangata whenua.”
Brown is looking down the barrel of a financial gun. He can sell the $2.3b worth of airport shares - to which there is strong opposition - owned by Auckland Council, and retain services while keeping the rate rises within 6.7 per cent.
Or he can slash services across Auckland and hike rates by 10-13 per cent to cover the budget shortfall of $325 million.
Blair says tangata whenua coupled with a national investor like the Super Fund were obvious potential investors who would ensure the sold asset remained in the control of Aotearoa New Zealand-based owners.
“We are tangata whenua, we are not going anywhere. We do not think in short-term investment horizons, we invest with a long-term intergenerational horizon.”
He believes that shares in the Auckland Airport must also eventually be sold to reduce overall debt and to ensure the whenua and seabed the airport is built on is returned to tangata whenua.
“Our relations in the southern Manukau – the Waiohua people - should be supported and given the opportunity to purchase a stake in an asset that has reaped massive wealth and value for other investors but not tangata whenua, the customary and moral holders of the title to the southern Manukau.
“The Waiohua people are the tangata whenua of the Auckland Airport area on the southern Manukau which was reclaimed from their seabed in those types of discussions just as we’ve had on the Waitematā with the Port of Auckland. What better alternative owner than the tangata whenua of such assets?
“The asset sales will help reduce rates increases for our struggling whānau and cuts to many important community services.
“We support the mayor’s budget proposal to sell these assets on the proviso the tangata whenua get first option to buy their former whenua and seabed back.”
Blair said with some of the highest inflation rates in more than 20 years and increased mortgage rates, higher council rates were an unwelcome burden for ratepayers and renters in the city, and Brown must look at all financial options - including ones some may find offensive.
“We have asked every supercity mayor to sell us back the Port of Auckland to help reduce council debt while releasing [land] for better more productive use.
A spokesperson from Wayne Brown’s office told the Herald: “The mayor has no comment at this stage. However, the council may consider the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei proposal as a long-term plan.”