The new owners of former council forests have gifted a slice of the blocks to Whanganui iwi.
The sale of 1000ha of land and forest by Whanganui District Council to Summit Forests NZ, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Sumitomo Corporation, was announced this month.
The nearly $13 million deal was signed in December 2016, but had to await Overseas Investment Office approval.
Part of the deal is an announcement Summit Forests will hand over 148ha “for nil consideration once Summit has identified the appropriate iwi to receive the offer”.
The Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust could have been in a position to buy the land had claims for the lower Whanganui been settled earlier.
The trust didn’t exist when the sale process began, nevertheless, some among iwi believe the sale could have been delayed to give them the option of buying.
The council consulted four iwi in the district – Te Rūnanga o Tupoho, Ngā Rauru Kiitahi, Ngā Wairiki o Ngāti Apa and Te Rūnanga o Tamaupoko – in April 2016, before the forests were put on the market.
The council also informed Tupoho about the sale not long before it happened, trust project manager Tracey Waitokia said.
The trust was not in a position at that time to purchase or negotiate.
It has always been the focus of the iwi to try to get as much land as possible back into hapū or iwi ownership, Waitokia said.
“We have had discussions with them in regard to our stance, and we had also expressed our interest in the whenua [land], not the forest.”
Under New Zealand law, land and trees could easily be separated in a sale agreement.
Despite missing out on the land, the trust was excited and encouraged Summit intended to hand over 148ha.
“We believe this is a great step towards acknowledging the iwi’s manawhenua and we encourage these values,” Waitokia said.