Bill Rayner of Shore Heritage and Auckland Council Heritage Advisory Panel member, provides Devonport Speculator readers with the low down on the latest battle for ownership of a site of prime Devonport land.
The inclusion of the Narrow Neck site of the Navy Officer and Trade Training Schools in the Government Treaty settlement with Ngati Whatua just announced by the Minister of Defence and local MP Wayne Mapp raises new issues for the Devonport community and Auckland Council that must be immediately addressed .
The community was aware that the Navy residential housing was being considered as part of the Treaty settlement compensation for Ngati Whatua, but including the remaining part of the old Ft Cautley where the Navy schools are was a bit of shock considering the huge community protest over the proposal in 1997 by the then Government to sell the military camp land for high value residential housing.
This proposed sale was challenged in the Courts by the Tamaki Land Protection Society and the Government lost the case. The land then became the current Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve under joint DOC and Council control.
The precedent of this case would suggest that the Government may not have clear title to transfer to Ngati Whatua.
Mr Mapp advises that the land will be leased back to the Navy for at least 15 years, and that any changes to the land’s use after that will be subject to public consultation.
It is unacceptable to wait 15 years for public consultation. To be fair to both the community and Ngati Whatua, there must be immediate public discussion and involvement by Auckland Council so there is full understanding before the agreement is finally signed off.
Part of the Navy land is used by the Council as a sports field, and Devonport Rotary financed a $20,000 access way to Vauxhall Rd on a Navy land easement. The future of these public facilities must be discussed and clarified. Other issues will involve heritage buildings on the site, potential community use of the school buildings, and ultimate land use.
Grey Power has also put the prospect of special zoning to provide housing suitable for older people to the Council in initial discussions on the rationalization of Navy and Housing Corp land in the Devonport area
All the issues may be covered by the Government with Ngati Whatua but the community and Council need to know this. The prospect of disputes with Ngati Whatua arising in 15 years time is not an attractive one. Ngati Whatua may prefer alternative Treaty settlement compensation and leave the Narrow Neck land in public ownership.
The timing of the announcement is ironic with the Rugby World Cup in full swing. The dispute in 1997 over the first proposed sale of the Narrow Neck land was Mr Mapp’s first major political crisis as a new North Shore MP, and he is giving a real ‘hospital pass’ over the same issue to give his replacement, probably his National colleague Maggie Barry, a similar experience early in her political career.