This comes after widespread community opposition to plans to build a big house on a block of land next to culturally significant Vaerota marae, overlooking the ancient makatea rock on its shore.
There have been meetings to discuss buying out the lease of the couple who were planning to build their home at the point – but the landowners have been unable to reimburse the couple.
So instead, there are now efforts to provide a land swap for the leased Vaerota 6Q block.
Tere Carr, who first helped the couple initiate a meeting with landowners after the public opposition gained momentum, said the assignment of the lease was approved and any construction on the site would be within the couple’s rights. It wouldn’t require an environmental impact assessment.
Carr said no one in the family came forward to offer the couple alternative land. “The fault lies with the landowners who didn’t recognise the significance of the land,” said Carr.
It wasn’t government’s role to step in and buy back the lease either, she added.
Vaikai Mataiapo Tutara Sonny Daniel, a family member and land representative, said the family had met two weeks ago in an effort to find land options for a swap.
“We most definitely want to declare the land a national reserve for everyone because of the cultural and historical significance,” said Daniel.
More than 2500 people have signed an online petition against contraction on the Avana Point site.
And in August a small construction shed on the property was firebombed; police have charged a 23-year-old, whose family members are among opponents of the building development. His lawyer denies the attack was politically motivated.
Daniel said the family didn’t know opposition to the building project would get so out of hand, and had been disappointed with comments on social media claiming the couple, New Zealanders Richard Ireton and his Cooks partner Jessica Lennan, were at fault.
In fact, he argued the family should never have leased out the land. “The land was leased for a ridiculous amount,” he said. “Now we are in a messy situation.”
Daniel said the couple were in favour of a land swap if only the family could find land that would match the location and value of the Avana Point lease, reported to have been $320,000 for 45 years.