Kaitāia Airport gets six-month extension as ownership dispute rumbles on

The future of Kaitāia Airport has been under a cloud for some time, but the Far North District Council has extended the airport’s lease for six months and is confident its long-term future is assured.

The lease to operate Kaitāia Airport has been extended by six months, with the future of the country’s northernmost airport under a cloud.

But the Far North District Council (FNDC), which extended the lease last week, said it is confident the airport’s long-term future is assured, despite disputes over who owns the airport land and who should run the facility.

The lease for the airport was due to expire on Friday, June 30, but the extension gives FNDC time to try to sort out a solution to the issues surrounding the airport.

Rochelle Deane, the council’s acting group manager for delivery and operations, said the airfield will continue to operate and flights in and out of Kaitāia will continue unaffected. A six-month extension to the operation of the airfield has been agreed between the council and Far North Holdings Limited, which will cover any transition period between operators.


Advertise with NZME.

Deane said council staff will begin discussions with Ngāi Takoto and mana whenua of Ngāti Kahu on the airport lease. Funding from the Long-Term Plan will be made available by the council for repairs to the runway and the dwelling on the site.

“The council is confident that the long-term future of the airport is assured and we look forward to working with future owners,” Deane said.

The council discussed the airport’s future at its Thursday meeting last week, but as the matter was held in the public-excluded section, it is not saying anything about what was decided, if anything, at this stage.

The council cited several reasons under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 for holding the discussions out of the public eye.


Advertise with NZME.

These included that the withholding of the information is necessary to protect information that is subject to an obligation of confidence; to allow free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to members or officers or employees of any local authority, and that withholding of the information is necessary to enable the council to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations).

In May, NZME reported on how an unsettled land claim with local iwi was contributing to the hold-up of the lease renewal.

As well as an independent group of Te Hiku, locals say they have what it takes to run the airport.

The Kaitāia Community Airport (KCA) group is a collective of local iwi, community and business members throwing their hats in the ring to manage Kaitāia Airport.

KCA chairman and international aviation consultant Mike Crymble said the group had been informally running for years in response to an apparent lack of investment in and development of the airport.

“The Kaitāia Community Airport team would like the opportunity to put our case for the continued operation of the airport,” Crymble said.

The Kaitāia Airport lease was due to expire on June 30, but had been extended for six months while disputes over who owns the land and who should operate the airport are sorted out.
The Kaitāia Airport lease was due to expire on June 30, but had been extended for six months while disputes over who owns the land and who should operate the airport are sorted out.

“We, along with the vast majority of the community, do not want to lose – under any circumstances – this vital link to the rest of the country.

“The people certainly would expect, at the very least, to have been consulted on the situation before the council made this shocking announcement.”

Crymble, who runs Mandeville Airport near Gore in the lower South Island, said there should be an open tender for the airport lease, currently held by the airfield management organisation Far North Holdings Limited on behalf of FNDC.

According to Toutu Te Whenua – Land Information New Zealand, the legal landowners of the airport land, the FNDC was on a current month-to-month lease arrangement to manage the airport.


Advertise with NZME.

Protesters occupied the airport in 2015 over the Te Hiku Treaty settlement.

Te Runanga a iwi o Ngāti Kahu chairwoman Professor Margaret Mutu said the airport matter related to the Waitangi Tribunal claim of the Erstich whānau, or more accurately, the descendants of Kataraina Matenga, who married Ante Erstich. Mutu said the whānau are of the Patukoraha hapū of Kareponia Marae and their iwi is Ngāti Kahu.

According to Mutu, the Crown had issued itself the title to the land, but the true owners were the descendants of Kataraina Matenga and Ante Erstich and the Crown was yet to rectify that.

“The land the airport is on was taken from Kataraina, via her husband Ante, for military purposes during World War II on the promise that it would be returned,” Mutu said.

“Some land was also taken from the neighbouring hapū, Ngai Tohianga. It was taken using the Public Works Act, which requires such land to be offered back to those it was taken from. It has never been returned.”

Mutu said Ngāti Kahu supported the repossession of those lands led by the Erstich whānau, Patukoraha, Ngāi Tohianga and Te Paatu when the Government allegedly tried to sell it to another iwi in 2015.


Advertise with NZME.

Mike Dinsdale is news director and senior journalist who covers general news for the Advocate. He has worked in Northland for almost 34 years and loves the region.

Source link

Leave a Reply