Local Government Magazine
National Politics

Plea to keep land in public ownership

A sizable chunk of land, situated to the north-east of Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast, that is presently owned by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) on behalf of the crown is expected to come up for sale sometime later this year. Richard Silcock explains.

Some 420 hectares of the former pastoral farm and a market garden land was earmarked for use in the construction of the Transmission Gully Motorway northern interchange and approach roads.

However, as the new motorway now takes a more easterly alignment to join with the Kapiti Expressway at Mckays Crossing, this parcel of land is expected to become redundant and no longer required for the motorway that is being constructed in a joint venture partnership by CPB and HEB Construction under a PPP contract with the Wellington Gateway Partnership for NZTA. It is due to open later this year.

Normally, and as required under the Public Works Act (1981), the NZTA would gazette the land sale and sell it to the highest bidder, with little regard to its intended or likely use. 

However, a Kapiti Coast group, Wainuiwhenua and a local Maori sub tribe, Ngati Haumia ki Paekakariki, are requesting that when it does come up for sale, it should remain in public hands and not be sold off to a company or person(s) for private use or development.

The Wainuiwhenua group is made up of local community stakeholders, mana whenua and local community board members.

The co-chair of the group and a former Mayor of the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC), Jenny Rowan, says it is usual for NZTA to sell surplus land within the Land Information New Zealand disposal process for farming, housing or commercial development use.

Rowan is reported as saying in the local media that this would be a wasted opportunity, as the land lends itself for development as an environmental, conservation and recreational reserve to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. 

“We have developed a work plan for the land and what it could be used for and would like to see it be developed by a community led vision such as ours,” she said.

Rowan claims that under the Public Works Act community groups cannot just acquire land so they are suggesting, as a way of achieving their vision, that the land be purchased and transferred to another public agency.

“The obvious agency to lead that process in this case would be the local council (KCDC),” she says.

Rowan says they would then go on and work together to develop the space, for and with the support of the local community.

“Our work plans include reforesting the hill area, recreating wetlands in the low-lying areas (a large area is a peat swamp), developing community gardens and maybe a small affordable housing development.

“We could even look to install three or four wind turbines for the purpose of providing sustainable power generation.”

She says the group would set a precedent for the way local councils across the country could better work with their communities in the acquisition and use of similar surplus land.

“If the local council shows leadership in this acquisition, the Wainuiwhenua example could become a leading-edge model for how a community, a council and central government partnership can work together to respond to the challenge of future-proofing our communities,” Rowan reportedly said. 

“We want the council to take seriously a community-led vision like this Wainuiwhenua project.”

The KCDC group manager for regulatory services, Natasha Tod, says in a written statement to Local Government magazine: “The Council is proactively in discussions with Wainuiwhenua about future opportunities for the land surrounding the Paekakariki township that is currently owned by NZTA and is expected to be declared surplus following the completion of the Transmission Gully Motorway.

“There are, however, a range of factors, including costs and benefits to ratepayers that need to be considered when looking at strategic land purchases, and no decision has yet been made by the council about any future acquisition of this land.”

Any decision by the council could be some time off as, NZTA spokesperson Andy Knackstedt says, the land is currently not on the market and is considered still required for the Transmission Gully Motorway.

“Once it is established that it is no longer required for the project the land will be disposed of in accordance with the Public Works Act,” he says.

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