Letter to the Editor
I have been reading with a great deal of interest the comments since the publication of the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust Treaty Settlement Negotiations document.
As the receiver of the document from the now named councillor, and as the Chair of the Whanganui Ratepayers Association I would like to make the following comments.
It must be acknowledged that the document was passed to the Ratepayers’ Association by Councillor David Bennett with the best of intentions and out of concern for a less than democratic process. To be perfectly clear, the document was not marked ‘Confidential’ and the Ratepayers Association was invited to apply the document as we saw fit. Following discussion, a decision was made that the contents of the document should be made public.
The document from the ‘ Office of Treaty Settlements’ is twelve pages in total and light on detail. The proposed implications are major for the citizens of the district and the view of the Ratepayers’ Association is that there needs to be public discussion prior to any sign off. There is no mandate for Council to dispose of or sell a large number of public assets without ratepayer approval.
The document has eight stages in the following order: mandate; terms of negotiations; agreement in principal; deed of settlement; ratification; legislation and implementation. This document is at the Agreement in Principal (AIP) stage so presumably the terms and negotiations have already taken place. Once the API is signed off the next step is the’ Deed Of Settlement’. Is this already a done deal behind closed doors without any public negotiation or consultation? There is no mention in the document of any public consultation with local citizens. The Mayor is quoted in the Chronicle as saying that “an agreement in principal would go to cabinet to be signed off and then negotiation would begin.” This statement is in contradiction to the steps in the document where presumably negotiations have already taken place, and we are now at the Agreement in Principal stage waiting for the next stage, the Deed of Settlement. Is this now fait accompli?
Are we to sell, or give to IWI, current council assets like the airport endowment land and harbour and city endowment land, plus co management of Queens park, Kokohuia wetlands, Gonville Domain, Horrocks Park Reserve and crown owned land at Kai Iwi Beach, as well as co management of Lakes Wiritoa, Kaitoke, Pauri, Westmere and Virginia Lake? There is no mention of the implications that the changes would have in the immediate or long term future of these assets.
The Wanganui Ratepayers Association expresses the following concerns :
The land referred to in the proposal is currently owned by the people of Whanganui. The reserve land and lakes were established as public reserves by the people of Whanganui for all of its citizens to enjoy free and perpetual access. If the Government and local council has a wish to give away or change the ownership status as part of a treaty settlement, there is a need to first consult with all local citizens. It’s the Association’s view that all the land and lakes referred to in the document maintain the status quo ie: owned and enjoyed by all the people of this district. We understand the need for the Government to make amends for past treaty wrongs. Our suggestion is that this should be by offering compensation other than our public assets.
The Ratepayers’ Association recommendation is that the proposal be made public before any ‘Agreement in Principal,’ and that the decision is taken to the ratepayers with a referendum included in the council elections this year to ensure a democratic process.
Wanganui Ratepayers Association.