Foreshore and seabed information   |   Indigenous Rights

Council says 'no' to handing over domain
ownership to Ngati Mutunga

4 August 2004

The New Plymouth District Council last night rejected a proposal to hand ownership of Urenui and Onaero domains to Ngati Mutunga.

In an emotional debate on the issue, one councillor attacked "redneck" attitudes and another said she was ashamed to be pakeha.

However, a majority of councillors chose not to support the Crown's proposal for the future of the domains ultimately voting for the status quo.

In making their decision, councillors said they could not ignore the fact that the majority of submitters on the issue did not want the council to back a Crown proposal to vest the fee simple title of the domains to Ngati Mutunga.

Many of those submitters, however, were slated by some councillors for their attitudes.

Councillors said many of the submitters had a fear, which councillors said was unfounded, of what would happen if the domains were reverted to the iwi.

The Crown, the council and Ngati Mutunga had stressed the transfer would be symbolic only, with lessees' rights protected.

Alex Matheson said the "redneck views" he heard by some submitters had saddened him, while Elaine Gill said she had found the submission process very upsetting.

"There were things said here by some submitters that made me very ashamed to be a pakeha. I have real sympathy with Ngati Mutunga. I think they have conducted themselves with great dignity," Mrs Gill said.

"I have certainly listened, but unfortunately, the vast majority wanted the status quo. I'm very sorry about that and I'm very disappointed in our community."

Clive Pryme said he was particularly disappointed with the amount of false historical information given by submitters.

"I was quite upset with people who came and tried to influence this council by giving information that was factually incorrect . . . taking history subjectively and using it for one's own purpose," Mr Pryme said.

On the verge of tears, Heather Dodunski said she could not understand why some people had such a fear of the domains going to Maori.

"At the end of the day, nothing changes, except you give back what was taken away. I'm saddened by the response. It's been a learning curve we did not need to have," she said.

Howie Tamati urged fellow councillors to be strong and "do the right thing" by supporting the Crown's proposal.

He said they could then leave the chambers knowing they were not "threatened into making a decision that you know in your hearts was wrong", he said.

But Pam Street said that it was "just too bad" if some councillors were upset.

"Thank you to the submitters. It's their right to stand up and say what they want to say," she said.

A number of councillors were also critical that they were even called on to make a decision on the future of the domains.

Maurice Betts said the council had been given a "hospital pass" by the Crown.

After the meeting, Ngati Mutunga chief negotiator Dion Tuuta said he was very disappointed with the decision.

"Ngati Mutunga thought the Crown's proposal offered a win-win for the entire community at no cost to anybody but, obviously, other parts of the community didn't see it that way.

"It's now back to the drawing board to see where to go from here," Mr Tuuta said.

Urenui resident Duncan Elliott said he was pleased with the council's stance, but councillors' comments about submitters disturbed him.

"That really upset me. If they interpreted it that way, I'm sure it wasn't meant to be that way.

"I just hope that now that they (Ngati Mutunga) have got a good settlement, that they accept it and move on, and stop looking back all the time," Mr Elliott said.

New Plymouth Mayor Peter Tennent said Onaero and Urenui domains were ultimately an issue between the Crown and Ngati Mutunga, but the Crown had asked the council for its opinion.

"We have consulted. Quite clearly the community has an opinion and we are giving advice to the Crown accordingly, that we decline to support their proposal," he said.

The Crown could still chose to transfer the ownership of the domains to iwi, but considering the response from the community, Mr Tennent doubted that would happen.

Councillors Howie Tamati, Maurice Betts, Heather Dodunski, Jed Rowlands and Mike Merrick voted against the council's decision not to support the Crown's proposal.

Rochelle West,
The Daily News
© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2004

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