A proposal to return 172 hectares of Matakana Island to iwi would still allow the public to use a popular water skiing and picnic spot in the Bay of Plenty.
The Western Bay of Plenty Council has voted to progress a proposal to return the land, the eastern tip of the Island, to five local hapū.
Council inherited the land, known as Panepane Purakau, from the Tauranga Harbour Board under the Local Government Reform in 1989.
Mayor Garry Weber says the council has been working with Tangata Whenua for five years on a plan to return the land.
“Council received the land at no cost and has been a good steward of this whenua over the years, but we now have the chance to do the right thing and transfer the land back to the five hapū of Matakana Island,” he said.
“For tangata whenua, we are hopeful that the transfer goes a long way to mending the significant hurt the hapū faced when their land was taken by the Crown under the Public Works Act in 1923 and allows us to move forward together.”
Iwi says it will be an historic day when the land is returned to hapū ownership and “there is finally light at the end of the tunnel”.
Ngai te Rangi Iwi kaumatua Hauata Palmer says he hopes the “island community will create plans to make good use of the land for our children and grandchildren”.
“This does not necessarily mean a fiscal return, but what will be best for future generations and best for the land,” he said.
The proposed transfer agreement would see a seven-hectare public reserve created for public access, fishing, water-skiing and walking along the beach.
Public consultation is now open for the proposal, including an open day on the Island.