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Manihiki leases still to be settled

Wednesday 1 April 2009 | Published in Local


Wednesday 1: Deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate has returned from Manihiki with news that airport landowners have agreed to keep the agreement their forefathers had with government over the use of the land.

Last year when a group of landowners wrote to government over the proposed lease of the land, they asked that it respect the agreement they had in the past so they wouldn’t have to officially sign their land over.

They said their forefathers had willingly bequeathed the lands for airport purposes back in the 1980s according to their local customs and practices.

Government has been trying for the past few years to get leases on the land so that a planned upgrade for the airstrip can go ahead. Last July land court applications for the lease process were adjourned sine die with the directive that it come back before the court in a year’s time.

Justice Patrick Savage said that investigations into title in the land court have had “an unhappy past” and that in the past the court had “trampled on” and “corroded traditional society”.

Lawyer Tina Browne, who represents the airport authority in the case, told CI News yesterday that the latest agreement with the DPM and Manihiki-based landowners of the airport has not changed much in terms of what the court is dealing with.

Since it is not a binding agreement that can be used in court, all landowners of the 41 lots will still have to go through the court process of investigation into title and then lease agreements.

Last year landowners had taken their opposition so far that three people faced charges over blocking the airstrip which resulted in a flight carrying the court officials aborting a flight halfway to Manihiki. The police patrol boat Te Kukupa was also deployed to the island to keep the peace.

This resolution to keep to the agreement that their forefathers had with government over the use of the land, was passed at a meeting of Manihiki airstrip landowners and the deputy prime minister Sir Terepai while he was on the island to deal with pearl industry issues last week.

Sir Terepai said being on the island with Cook Islands Pearl Authority board member Tina Browne, was a good opportunity to get an agreement and put the matter to rest.

“The landowners unanimously reinforced this historic agreement made by their tupuna, and I am very, very happy with that. We can now move ahead and get the upgrading that needs to be done to the airstrip,” said Sir Terepai.

“This is really an excellent outcome for the island and her people.” - Helen Greig /DPM’s Office