Successful negotiations between Waikato-Tainui, local iwi, Watercare Services Limited and the Kelliher Charitable Trust have resulted in an agreement to develop Puketutu Island as a public open space.
The proposal, which has approval from the Environment Court, will see the quarry area of the island rehabilitated with clean fill and treated biosolids from the adjacent Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant to create a new regional park.
Watercare's vision for the island is for it to become a superb park for the people of Auckland whilst still recognising the unique Maori and European heritage of the island.
For Watercare there is also a commercial reward. Without the availability of Puketutu the company would have to truck biosolids to landfills a considerable distance from the plant involving higher costs, safety issues and inconvenience to neighbours. Whilst the $27 million purchase price for the island lease plus the $2.00 tonne levy is a considerable investment, there is a saving of up to $22 million in real terms over the 35 year life of the project. That saving will inevitably be reflected in future wastewater charges.
There is also a huge benefit for local residents who will not have to put up with up to 30 trucks a day travelling through the neighbourhood with associated nuisances of noise, dust and road damage.
In order to ensure benefits to all parties, the ownership agreement is quite complex. Watercare will lease the island for 55 years and the Kelliher Trust will transfer the freehold title to an Island Trust comprising six members representing Waikato-Tainui, Makaurau and Te Kawerau. A marae and associated cultural facilities will be constructed on an area specially designated for that purpose and the marae precinct will be freely accessible to the people of Auckland and other visitors to the island. Visitors will also be shown places of historical and cultural significance.
A Governance Trust, with four trustees from each of the Island Trust, Watercare and Auckland Council, will allocate funding for the marae construction, development of the island, scholarships for education or training, employment opportunities and provide a forum to consider issues relating to the island.
Under the agreement it is proposed that Auckland Council will take up a concurrent renewable lease with 999 year terms to guarantee that Puketutu Island remains available to the people of Auckland in perpetuity.
FACT ONE: Puketutu Island was previously owned by Maori, but in 1845 the Native Chiefs of New Zealand sold it to John Thomas Jackson of Onehunga.
FACT TWO: The new regional park on Puketutu Island will cover 197 hectares which is larger than Cornwall Park at 172 hectares.
FACT THREE: Public access to Puketutu Island will not be available until the agreement is complete and appropriate safety procedures are in place.