|Words from the Western Bay Mayor
by Garry Webber
This week, Western Bay of Plenty District Council voted in support of consulting with the public about a proposed return of ownership of the eastern end of Matakana Island, known as Panepane Purakau.
The proposed agreement would see the ownership transferred from the Council to the five hapu of Matakana Island and a seven hectare public reserve created to ensure public access to the foreshore is protected in perpetuity.
This means people will still be able to enjoy activities like fishing off the wharf, walking along the beach and using the recreational areas close to Panepane Purakau, such as water-skiing lanes. With public access to continue, it will be as important as ever to respect the land when visiting.
This move is a significant step forward in a process that Council first initiated in 2015, but the ownership issues stretch back over many decades.
Council received the land at no cost and we believe we have been a good steward of this whenua over the years. But it is now time it is returned to its ancestral owners.
For tangata whenua, this will help restore and strengthen their connection with the land and give them the full role of kaitiaki (guardians) of the whenua (land).
This proposed return recognises the special relationship between Council and tangata whenua and we are hopeful it will go a long way to mending the significant hurt the hapu faced when the land was originally taken from them.
Up until August 31 you can have your say on the proposed transfer at: https://haveyoursay.westernbay.govt.nz/panepane or attend one of our three open days planned for the coming weeks – at Opureora Marae (Matakana Island) on August 8, Omokoroa Boat Club on August 15 or Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club on August 22.
While public feedback will inform our considerations and thinking, ultimately the decision rests with Council to make, as Elected Members of the community.
We now have a chance to do the right thing and achieve great outcomes for Council, tangata whenua and the wider community.