Most years constituents bring me at least one issue that has something to do with the Public Works Act. At its heart the act deals with the compulsory acquisition of land for the purpose of a public good such as a road, park or school.
Over the past 18 months I have worked hard with the community at Puriri Park Rd so that their voice could at least be heard in the proposed Housing New Zealand development. A part of that preparation took me into old gazette notices looking for original owners and up to Maunu cemetery to crosscheck headstones.
Eventually we found children of the last known owners of Puriri Park before it was sold to the Ministry of Education many decades back.
The descendants now live 20 minutes away at Maungatapere and they had a sad story of their elderly parents being forced to move off the family farm at Puriri Park which was acquired under a Public Works Act equivalent. They have ongoing bitterness around what their parents considered to be an unfair valuation and price for the compulsory sale.
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Two weeks ago I was again working with the Public Works Act, this time in the middle of a paddock alongside State Highway 1 at the Portland Rd intersection. I was speaking with the farmer who owns the land that has been taken to accommodate a new slipway for people leaving Portland Rd and heading south.
He explained to me that almost the whole frontage of his land had been taken under the Public Works Act. He understood the purpose and agrees that the slipway needs to happen. His concern was the compulsory price he was being forced to sell for.
The area involved is roughly half an acre in a strip alongside SH1. The gentleman is grazing cattle which are now disrupted and the tall trees that have already been removed were an important noise and eye barrier for the traffic noise which now confronts his home.
The issue is fair value. He has been offered $10,000 for half an acre of land 20 minutes from central city Whangarei.
I have seen the independent valuers reports which appraise the figure of $10,000 but I keep coming back to this gentleman's argument, find me half an acre of land 20 minutes from Whangārei for $10,000 and I will buy it.
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It seems low especially when the trees are now gone and eventual replanting will take decades at best.
As MP I will continue to work with this gentleman towards the best outcome that we can achieve but I recall having a related conversation with ex National MP the Hon Maurice Williamson a few years ago. He wanted to bring in a public works acquisition policy similar to what he had seen overseas. The policy would offer a generous minimum compulsory acquisition figure, eg $75,000, for quick uncontested smaller purchases of land for public works by the Crown.
I think a discussion of fair value for compulsory land acquisition under the Public Works Act is a timely and good discussion to have and I would note that it is the exact same discussion I have heard Māori grapple with over historical and current issues.