Whanganui's Tupoho hapu want their land claims settled as soon as possible as they work towards furthering their economic development. Tupoho are currently seeking a mandate to negotiate a settlement.

The lower Whanganui River hapu already has business and property interests under its Tupoho Investments Ltd, and those will increase after settlement, Tupoho Whanau Trust chairman Ken Mair said.

The trust has been using and managing properties in central Whanganui, including the Inspire Whanganui fitness centre and the Resource Recovery Centre.

It took over management of the former Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic site between Wicksteed and Bell streets in April 2011 under an agreement with UCOL and the Government. That large property, with many buildings, is in the process of being land-banked for Treaty of Waitangi settlement.


Most of its many useable buildings are tenanted, Mr Mair said, with tenants' rent used to cover the cost of maintenance and repairing the "constant minor vandalism" there.

"We manage to cover and struggle with maintenance issues."

The complex is run from offices within Rangahaua Marae, on Bell St, by Tupoho Whanau Trust manager Aroha Beckham.

The biggest tenant is Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority, with its doctors and supporting health services.

There's also the Aotea district base for te kohanga reo in R Block, visiting students from the United States' Earlham College using a classroom from February to April, Awa FM, Tupoho's social services unit, the Men's Shed, Wanganui Glass School and traditional medicine centre Te Hauora o te Aroha.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa is using former trades classrooms for its forestry courses.

Q Block is where meetings to co-ordinate land claim settlement in the lower Whanganui region take place - unless they are too big and then they are held at marae.

And R Block is to be used by Marty and Marilyn Vreede's Pakohe Papers business, and will contain a printmaking studio where workshops take place.

Some of the buildings on the property are in such a poor state they can't be used. Mr Mair said the prefab classrooms would probably all be demolished when the land is owned by the hapu.

The land itself is historically significant. It's near the site of the July 1847 Battle of St John's Wood - a time when the area would also have been swampy and important for food.

Elsewhere in town, the building used by Maori development organisation Nga Tai o te Awa is land-banked and used by Tupoho

So are Education House on Victoria Ave, the former UCOL gym in Wilson St and the former Wanganui Prison, which is in Maria Place.

Operating the gym and resource recovery centre are the main focus of Tupoho's economic development, but Mr Mair said Whanganui's port was in its sights.

Whanganui District Council has agreed to maintain wharf 1 there, and Tupoho will contribute to its development if a business case is favourable.

"It will be very positive for Castlecliff and Whanganui as a whole," Mr Mair said.

There were business opportunities there now, such as boat storage or facilities for fishers using the Wharf St slipway.

Harbour board lands could provide other opportunities, and were an important component of the land settlement.