Ownership structure for civic precinct land
Wednesday 24 August 2022
A proposal that aims to reconcile longstanding grievances associated with land in Tauranga’s city centre, set to undergo a major transformation in the coming years, is being shared with the community for feedback.
Te Papa peninsula, including the site where our future civic precinct will be built, has a long and complex ownership history dating back more than 150 years.
In 1838, the land was acquired from mana whenua by the Church Missionary Society (CMS), to be held for the benefit of Māori (in the face of increasing land demand by settlers). However, much of the area was then reluctantly gifted by the CMS to the Crown in the 1860s, despite the objections of mana whenua, who argued that if it wasn’t to be used for its original purpose, the land should be given back. In 1995, the Crown transferred the civic precinct area to the Borough of Tauranga, to be used for municipal buildings.
With plans now in place to transform the civic precinct into a vibrant community space called Te Manawataki o Te Papa, Tauranga City Council is proposing to set up a new ownership structure for the land to help reconcile past events and provide certainty around its future use.
The proposed solution would see a new Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) Charitable Trust established and jointly governed by Council and Otamataha Trust. The Trust represents mana whenua from Ngai Tamarāwaho, Ngāti Tapu and Te Materāwaho – the descendants of those who released the site to the CMS.
As part of the arrangement, the CCO would purchase the land now known as ‘Site A’ of the Civic Precinct from Council for a nominal amount.
Council would lease the land back from the CCO on a ‘peppercorn lease’ basis. Council would continue to own and be responsible for any improvements made to the existing buildings on the land, the construction and ownership of any new buildings and structures, as well as the day-to-day operation of the activities on the site.
Commission Chair Anne Tolley says the proposal is “a logical solution” and timely next step towards recognising and reconciling past grievances.
“As we prepare to transform this area into a place where people will come together to learn and share stories about our city’s past, the time is right to help shape our future by doing what is just and fair.
“The intention is that this proposal will help to restore the mana of the whenua to hapū and iwi and provide certainty for how the land will be owned and used in the future, for the benefit of everyone in the community.
Anne says the alienation from the land that mana whenua experienced has been recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal as being undertaken in a way that breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles.
“The proposed pathway seeks to restore the original relationship of trust that our ancestors, both Māori and the CMS, entered into,” she says.
“The relationship with mana whenua will be pivotal to the success of many of the outcomes to be achieved on the civic precinct site and this proposal would mean that we as a council and a community can move forward with our exciting plans for the city centre, knowing that we’ve done the right thing.”
Anne says the new ownership structure would have minimal cost implications on the ratepayer, so from the wider community’s perspective “there is nothing to lose and everything to gain” from what’s being proposed.
“We think this is the right thing to do and the community now has a chance to tell us what they think.”
Feedback closes on Tuesday, 6 September 2022, with the Commission expected to make a final decision on the proposal at a Council meeting on Monday, 3 October 2022.
About future plans for Te Manawataki o Te Papa
In June this year, the Commission committed to a $303.4 million investment in the city centre over the next eight years to develop facilities at the civic precinct site that will include a civic whare (public meeting house), library, and a museum and exhibition centre (subject to achieving 50% of the required funding from non-ratepayer sources).