A $30-million plus block of prime Auckland waterfront land will lose its marine park designation when it is sold cheaply to Maori as part of a big Treaty deal.
The 3.2ha Takapuna Head site, used by the New Zealand Navy as an officer training school, is being sold back to Ngati Whatua for $13.8m - but the iwi has been given freedom to do what it likes with the land.
At the same time, the Government is close to finalising a settlement with Ngati Ranginui in the Bay of Plenty on the land under two primary schools and Tauranga's new police station.
But local elected officials say they were never properly consulted: Auckland mayor Len Brown has written to Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson asking for a meeting. He said the settlement would "potentially alienate future public access to the property".
"What is more concerning is that this change is being introduced without any formal consultation with the local board and/or community and the Auckland Council," he added.
Firstly, there is no obligation on the government and Maori to consult the Council. Secondly, the status quo will barely change. Ownership will change, but the Navy school will remain and in Tauranga the two primary schools and police station will remain.
What underlies objections to land transfers, or in this case land purchases, is racism. Many New Zealanders have an unfounded fear that Maori will restrict access, develop the land in ways that will negatively affect the community and so on. I’d challenge anyone who operates under this mind set to point to more than one example where Maori have blocked access to previously public land, urupa (cemeteries) and other wahi tapu (sacred) sites excluded. Restricting access runs contrary to Maori values. After all, there is no such thing as private property in Te Ao Maori.
In this particular case, the government and iwi have obtained approval from the Hauraki Gulf Forum. It was the Gulf Forum that secured the areas marine park designation so surely they are the most appropriate group to consult and seek approval from – the Council is secondary.
It's disappointing, but understandable I suppose, to see Len Brown objecting. If the Mayor continues to oppose the proposed deal then he risks perpetuating the current grievance. If iwi do purchase the land, new grievances will not be created. This is rubbish. Will the people of Takapuna be that sore about the navy school site being sold. 90% of the good residents won't even notice and 95% won't even care.
Basically, this is a non-story. The story should focus on Len Brown's opposition to treaty settlements and his continued drift to the right.