Uh, oh. A grand development plan in the Waikato seems to have been fouled by a few differences among shareholders.
Alf speaks of Tainui Group Holdings’ plans for a multi-billion-dollar Ruakura development.
TGH has been itching for more than five years to get cracking and turn more than 600 hectares of good cow-nourishing pasture into a transport and residential hub.
It was named a project of national significance by the Environmental Protection Authority last year.
This was a clever move by the developers. It allowed them to skip years of council hearings, objections and red tape.
Trouble is, it now has to mollify some members of the tribe.
TGH is considering selling Tainui land for part of the development .
According to an unidentified source quoted by the Waikato Times, this has angered some indigenous persons who regard land as sacrosanct.
The only clue we have to the identity of the newspaper’s source is that he or she is a member of Tainui’s parliament, Te Kauhanganui.
The source spoke anonymously – according to the newspaper – because of concern Te Kauhanganui members had been told they could lose their positions for speaking to the media.
Waikato-Tainui denies this.
The insider said Waikato-Tainui’s commercial arm, TGH, was pursuing a business strategy for its $3.3 billion Ruakura Inland Port which angered members of Te Kauhanganui. TGH answers to the parliament, and all requests to sell land or get money must be approved by the group.
TGH has confirmed it is consdiering selling off parcels of land for the Ruakura development which the insider says upset some members of the Te Kauhanganui.
“People are not happy because it’s land being sold.”
The newspaper points out that the land at Ruakura was part of Tainui’s 1995 raupatu settlement with the Crown.
But the more interesting aspect of the story is that…
The source said the issue highlighted the “philosophical difference between the tribe and TGH”.
“TGH want to make money, and they’ve said many times ‘we don’t make a lot of money off land, we can make more money over here’. That’s all well and good, but that’s not what the settlement was about.
“Our people died on the battlefield over confiscation . . . Land is all-important.”
The insider said development at The Base had also been “shelved” which had added to community anger around the new TGH “diversification” strategy.
“That’s been one of our shining lights in terms of investment and making money out of our land.
“There are people who are very, very angry about it.”
The Waikato Times was keen to learn about this spat.
Alas, it it could not put the claims to TGH chief executive Mike Pohio, or chairman of the board, Henry van der Heyden. Both have either been silenced or opted not to say anything.
Nor is anybody else ready to talk.
All media calls are currently being directed through communications consultant Sonya Haggie.
She released a statement on behalf of Te Kauhanganui chair Maxine Moana-Tuwhangi, who did not respond to calls, saying that no gag order had been put in place, and members of Te Kauhanganui had not been told they could lose their positions for speaking out.
The press release did acknowledge that the Ruakura development involved “the possible sale of two pieces of land”.
“One is a portion of land on the edge of Fairview Downs which is suited to and zoned for subdivision. No final decision has been made regarding its use or possible sale.”
It said the final decision would be made by the tribe’s executive committee, Te Arataura, and said development at The Base “will not proceed until a business case is approved by TGH”.
It finished: “Waikato-Tainui does not intend to conduct its business affairs via the media, in particular in response to anonymous allegations, and will make no further comment to this matter.”
TGH is the largest landlord in the Waikato.
This year it’s annual result showed assets of more than $1 billion in value.
It paid a dividend of $13.9 million out to tribal members in the last financial year, up 21 per cent on the previous year. Waikato-Tainui has 66,000 members.
But it does not pay much heed to keeping the public informed about its activities.
The company has not posted any statements on its website since August 5.
At that time the company and Chedworth Properties said they welcomed an interim decision by the Board of Inquiry to approve the re-zoning of land at Ruakura from rural to employment and residential uses.
But Alf and at least one of his constituents (see the comments below the item posted here) would like to know if TGH got the money it was asking for the other day.
Obviously it did get some sharp differences of opinion.
But what about the money?