The Department of Conservation (DoC) is not interested in renewing the Waikaremoana lakebed lease.
Te Uru Taumatua and Te Urewera Board chairman Tamati Kruger said DoC had informed Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board and Te Uru Taumatua to this effect.
The 50-year iwi-Crown lakebed lease was due for renewal in July 2017.
The Government held a right of renewal but the lease has still not been renewed.
Instead DoC 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 percent ownership) and the Wairoa-Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board (28 percent ownership),” said Mervyn English, Department of Conservation spokesman on Tuhoe, Te Urewera and Waikaremoana matters.
“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.”
Mr 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.
“Because those discussions are ongoing, DoC is managing its activities at Waikaremoana on the basis that the lease is operating on a month-to-month basis.
“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.
‘The Government has no use for a lease’
“We will continue talking to the owners, and we are keen to find a path forward that meets their respective interests.
“We make lease payments as requested by the owners. What the owners do with any income is their concern.
“There is no discussion on the need for any new legislation.”
DoC had not confirmed if it had told stakeholders that it was not interested in renewing the lakebed lease at the time of going to print.
Earlier this month, Vern Winitana, an owner of Te Maara-A-Te-Atua, one of 12 Waikaremoana lake reserves asked if it was legal that this lakebed lease had operated on a month by month basis since its lapse in 2017.
Mr Kruger said if Waikaremoana and Te Urewera were no longer a national park why would the Crown 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.
“Now DoC no longer has governance and an operational role so what is the reason for wanting a lease?
“DoC were not interested in a lease and asked what did we both want to do around 2017.
“DoC moved aside and let the two stakeholders — Te Uru Tumatua and Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board — have a think about their options.”
Mr Kruger said Tuhoe had said repeatedly to Ngati Kahungunu that they would not be interested in a lease to anyone because who would lease a lakebed.
“What could you do with a lakebed?
“The Government has no jurisdiction at Waikaremoana and has no use and no purpose for a lease.
“We are saying to DoC that we would rather see that 72 percent reinvested in ecological work around Waikaremoana.
“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.
“We have been told to talk with Kahungunu about how we go forward from this point.
“For Kahungunu it is an economic and financial matter.
“For Tuhoe it is about its responsibilities to the nature of Waikaremoana,” said Mr Kruger.
Wairoa Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board chairman Richard NiaNia declined to comment.