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Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa continues to oppose Waitara Lands Bill

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Trust has expressed it’s continued opposition to the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill at the Māori Affairs Select Committee hearing held at Owae Marae on Friday.

Trust chairperson Liana Poutu told the committee that the decision for the Trust to oppose the Bill wasn’t made lightly and after talking with their people it was clear that the decision to oppose the Bill was the right decision to make.

“Our people were overwhelming opposed to the Bill and we couldn’t support something that our people didn’t support.”

Ms Poutu said that during the initial phases of the development of the Bill there was a lack of engagement with the Te Atiawa Iwi Authority who led the discussions on behalf of Te Atiawa at the time, over the drafting of the Bill and it was a point that she wanted to make clear to the people of Te Atiawa and the Waitara community.

“We weren’t engaged in the development of the detail or the drafting of the Bill. We only saw a draft two days before the Bill went out to public consultation.”

“Some people said that we initially supported the Bill and changed our minds later, that’s simply not the case. We supported the principles that were set out in the non-binding heads of agreement on which the Bill would be developed but when we saw the Bill it didn’t meet our expectations.”

“So we didn’t support the Bill then, and we’re not supporting the Bill now.”

Ms Poutu said that the Bill didn’t address the reconciliation aspect of the Waitara lands issue and that there were options that needed to be looked at.

“This Bill doesn’t address the raupatu that occurred over the lands in Waitara and that is an important part of the process.”

“The reconciliation process can occur outside of Treaty settlements like what is happening with the Parihaka reconciliation and if everybody is working together an outcome that is beneficial for everyone is possible.”

Ms Poutu also highlighted the importance of hapū and that hapū needed to be included in the process and any resolution that is developed.

“There is no question that we fully support our hapū as mana whenua and our hapū should be involved in any resolution that is developed moving forward.”

“We have this Bill which is one resolution that we tried our best to resolve but there are a number of options that haven’t yet been explored.”

“From our point of view there is a solution but this Bill is not it,” she said.