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DOC 'not interested' in renewing the Waikaremoana lakebed lease
21 February 2019

 The Department of Conservation is not interested in renewing the Waikaremoana lakebed lease, it has told Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board and Te Uru Taumatua.

That is according to Te Uru Taumatua and Te Urewera Board chairman Tamati Kruger.

The 50-year iwi-Crown lakebed lease was due for renewal in July 2017. DOC held a right of renewal, but the lease has still not been renewed.

Treasury documents show DOC's cost for the Waikaremoana Lakebed lease is an annual payment of $241,000.

It comes after a summer of frustration at the lake, with iwi voicing concerns about tourists dumping rubbish and some in the area speaking out against the way the Waikaremoana Great Walk is being run.

Department of Conservation spokesman Mervyn English says it is managing its activities at Waikaremoana on a month-to-month basis.

"The lakebed is Maori freehold land leased by the Crown from the Tuhoe Charitable Trust (72 per cent ownership) and the Wairoa-Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board (28 per cent ownership)," English said.

"In March 2017, the Conservation Department gave notice to the owners that it intended to renew the lease when its first term expired on 30 June 2017."

English said DOC did that, in collaboration with the owners, to ensure that all options for the future management of the lakebed could be explored without the pressure of the lease expiry date affecting the discussions.

"That does not mean that the lease is being renewed month by month — it is simply a way of saying that DOC works with a 'short horizon' when it comes to the lake.

"We will continue talking to the owners, and we are keen to find a path forward that meets their respective interests," English said.

"We make lease payments as requested by the owners. What the owners do with any income is their concern."

DOC had not confirmed if they had told stakeholders that it was not interested in renewing the lakebed lease at the time of going to print.

Kruger said if Waikaremoana and Te Urewera were no longer a national park there was no reason the Crown would want to lease it.

"So the lease was for the purpose of maintaining the continuity between the values of the national park and the use of the lake, that is why the lease was seen as a necessity," Kruger said.

"Now DOC no longer has governance and an operational role so what is the reason for wanting a lease?"

Kruger said Tuhoe had been in repeated talks with Ngati Kahungunu that they would not be interested in a lease to anyone, because who would lease a lakebed?

"The Government has no jurisdiction at Waikaremoana and has no use and no purpose for a lease.

"What we are saying to DOC is that we would rather see that 72 per cent reinvested in ecological work around Waikaremoana," Kruger said.

"We would be happy with our share being redirected to resolving the siphon issue at the lake and any other conservation matter that DOC and Tuhoe agree on.

"Wairoa Kahungunu are still keen for a lease because it is an income."

Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board chairman Richard NiaNia was not available to comment.

NZ Herald

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