29 Jan 2013

Investigation into Maori land sales office blaze

7:26 am on 29 January 2013

Fire investigators have been picking over the charred remains of a sales office belonging to Maori land owners in the Far North.

Over the weekend, the building at Matauri Bay burned down in a suspected arson attack.

The office had been put up to help sell sub-divisions of land controlled by Matauri X Incorporation.

Portions of ancestral whenua are being sold to pay off a $15 million debt following a failed business venture into bottled water.

Major shareholder in Matauri X Incorporation Dover Samuels says some customary land owners have been against the financial rescue plan.

Mr Samuels says the issue has been bubbling for months - which is reflected in the attitude of a number of whanau who are not reconciled to the fact that if the debt is not paid, they will lose the land.

He says before the weekend fire there was tagging and a social media campaign attempting to warn people off buying a beach-front property.