Few businesses paying to use iwi-owned Lake Taupō

Source: 1News

The iwi which owns Lake Taupō can charge businesses to use it following a High Court ruling this week, reinforcing the powers already given to the tribe.

However, not many are paying for its use.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa went to the High Court seeking a declaration over its rights to charge commercial operators – a power which had been written into its Treaty deal.

“We've had victory in the High Court this week but the fight is still yet to be fought,” Ngāti Tūwharetoa's Shane Heremaia said.

“If someone said to you, ‘No, you can't do that. You've got to prove to me that you own it and go to a court case and wait 20 years in order to do that’, of course that would be extremely frustrating.”

Tribal ownership of the lake was recognised in 1992, and was reaffirmed in an updated 2007 law.

It also stated the tribe could charge licences.

“The lakebed is freehold land. It was handed over to Tūwharetoa in 1992 by the National Party at the time - now they’re seeing some fruitation of their assets,” Taupō mayor David Trewavas said.

However, two dozen commercial operators pushed back, arguing that it was not the intention behind the deal. The court reaffirmed the tribe’s rights.

One business owner told 1 NEWS that while they had no problem with paying the fee, they had serious concerns around the length of the licence, calling it “far too short”.

Heremaia said they’re “not talking for 30 years at all, we’re probably talking about less than 10 years” for the licences, citing environmental and cultural concerns.

A representative of the 24 businesses refused to comment as they had yet to meet.

Currently, only the annual Ironman event, a bar and two iwi businesses pay a fee.

Trewavas says the judgement is clear and gives opportunities for growth.

“The numbers are there - GDP's $2.4, 2.3 billion ... I think the timing's good,” he said.

Chris Jolly Tourism’s Simon Jolly says they’ve had business relationships with the iwi "for nearly 40 years now".

“If you can form good relationships - whether it's a business relationship or personal relationships - life's good.”

The public’s recreational rights are not affected by this week’s ruling.

“It's in our interests and everybody else’s interests to get along so with this decision, we do hope that everyone's just gonna get onboard.”

Negotiations are now set to get underway.