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Letter: Old Sheraton – family or title land?

Saturday 28 October 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter: Old Sheraton – family or title land?
The abandoned Sheraton Hotel is being redeveloped by Rarotonga businessman Chris Vaile. The first section, which includes 41 rooms and a new swimming pool, is scheduled to be completed by the end of next month. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 23100417, 23100418 / 23100419/ 23100420/ 23100421 / 23100422

Dear Editor, I have been following the news regarding the Main Road diversion being insisted upon by Pa Ariki and her lawyers, as well as her latest developer. It has been heartwarming to see the public of Rarotonga rise up and oppose a road diversion that is not in the public interest.

As a member of the Kopu Ariki of Pa Ariki and holding the title of Takau Rangatira, I recently filed an application to the Court asking that a determination be made as to whether Papua Section 4 (the “Sheraton” land) is title land or family land. For many years I have been opposing Pa Ariki’s treatment of this land as her own personal cash cow, but at every turn, her lawyers have repeatedly told my family that the land is title land owned solely by Pa Ariki and that she can do whatever she likes, without any consultation or notice to members of the Kopu Ariki of Pa Ariki who elected her. Because of this, I decided to file my application to settle this question once and for all as it is my belief that the land was never granted as “title land” in 1903.

I have been given hope by the actions of the Kopu Ariki of Makea Ariki who filed an application opposing the treatment of two large parcels of land in Titikaveka as title land, and a Land Court Judge, after hearing the evidence, has given a Report that says that in his opinion, those parcels of land are family lands, and not title lands. This explains why for 25 years there has been no Makea Ariki as that family no longer wish to elect an ariki who will solely control huge parcels of tribal land, without any consultation with the people that elect the ariki, and who can blame them.

The same thing is happening in the Pa Ariki family, and I too see a future without an election of another Pa Ariki until all our tribal lands are treated as family lands, belonging to all of the tribe and not just one person to do with as they wish, as is the case now. Who in this day and age would ever elect an Ariki who is granted all the power over all the tribal lands, and those that elect are shoved to the side until they are needed to elect another Ariki to do the same thing again and again.

With respect to the comments made by Pa Ariki’s lawyers, Mr (Tim) Arnold and Mrs (Tina) Browne (former lawyer), both of them only have Pa Ariki’s interest at heart. Many times over the years my family have tried to assert that we have rights as to the use of the land, and we have tried to prevent Pa Ariki from selling leases, however both lawyers have repeatedly told us we have no rights, hence my application to determine this question once and for all – is this family land or title land. 

I do not support a diversion of the Main Road and strongly ask that government stay out of any decision to relocate the Main Road onto private land, for a private business, especially given the strong public opposition to it. Any attempt to close the Main Road, which is Crown land, should continue to be opposed by all the public as it is a public asset, so we all have a say. Many have referred to increased accidents, ambulances and fire trucks being hindered, the risk of death given there is a dangerous sea passage right in front of the property, and so on.  For once, government needs to listen to the concerns being raised by the public and say no.    

This week I received a Minute from the Chief Justice acknowledging my application which I filed on 15 May 2023. Given court proceedings have now commenced, I would think that talk about the road diversion should stop, given that there remains a possibility that the land may be deemed “family land”. But given our treatment over the years, I’m sure Pa Ariki will think otherwise. I would hope however that government will see sense, listen to the public outcry and leave the Main Road where it is.    

No reira e te iti tangata o Takitumu, e pera katoa o Tumutevarovaro, auraka rava tatou e tupou ki raro ake ite kavamani, ia Pa Ariki, e Chris Vaile I te tipu I to tatou mataara , teia taku kapiki anga, Kia patoi maata tikai tatou kia ratou ,e Kia kite tikai ratou e ko te inangaro teia a te iti tangata o teia patireia.

Kia Manuia.

Takau Rangatira

Eric Tupe Short

Ngati Tupe / Ngati Pa