13 Mar 2013

Lower Hutt land sale infuriates iwi

5:53 am on 13 March 2013

A Wellington iwi says land has been stolen from it and sold off by the body set up to manage its Treaty settlement money.

Claimants say the abandoned Waiwhetu School in Lower Hutt was supposed to be returned to them as cultural redress.

They are now in shock after learning the whenua or land has been bought by a housing developer for $2.3 million.

Some members of the Taranaki Whanui tribe are threatening legal action and are considering occupying the land in protest at the sell-off.

Manager of Waiwhetu Marae Peggy Luke-Ngaheke says the property has been sold from under the iwi's feet and taken by its own people - the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust.

Kaumatua Martha Gilbert says generations of local Maori went to Waiwhetu School and it is a special place for her.

She says she is devastated that the site has been snapped up by builders, who plan to build 28 houses on the site.

Chief executive of Te Runanganui o Taranaki Whanui Kara Puketapu says there has been no discussion about the sale, which is unacceptable.

However, Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust says it has nothing to apologise for.

Its chair, Mahara Okeroa, says trustees voted six to five for the sale of the school, because it was an asset that was not earning any money.

He argues that the original claim to the land was extinguished once the Government settled the with Port Nicholson Block.

Mr Okeroa says the claimants have generated a mythology in social media, something he says he is not interested in.