City-Ngai Tahu good partners

The relationship between Ngai Tahu and the Dunedin City Council is ''blossoming by the day'', as their respective leaders discuss regional economic development, including the benefits and risks of offshore oil and gas exploration.

Last year, the iwi was confirmed as backer of a $20 million student hostel to be built for Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin.

The council, which sold Ngai Tahu Property the land for $2 million, was continuing to involve local runanga and the wider iwi ''more and more'', Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said.

''Our relationship with Ngai Tahu at a runanga level and an iwi level is very good and blossoming by the day,'' he said.

He confirmed that talks were also continuing around investment in social housing.

''Ngai Tahu, at a corporate level and a property level, have made it clear they are interested in investing more widely in their rohe [tribal land],'' he said.

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere Sir Mark Solomon told the Otago Daily Times Ngai Tahu considered economic development for Ngai Tahu communities was important.

''Relationships take time ... it takes time to understand each other.''

With Texas-based oil giant Anadarko set to drill off the coast of the South Island, Sir Mark said: ''We do not believe this nation has the capacity to deal with a major oil spill.''

However, he stressed that while Ngai Tahu would make submissions at an iwi level, ''we leave it to our communities''.

His own Kaikoura runanga was concerned about the depths of drilling off their coast, and how this could potentially impact on an area known for whale-watching tourism.

''We just don't have the infrastructure or capacity [to deal with an oil spill]. To us, it is taking a risk we can't mitigate against.''

While there had been good consultation from the exploration companies and the Government, ''from my perspective there seems to be a disjointed approach between the Government agencies dealing with oil and gas''.

He remained concerned about the potential impact for Kaikoura, and so questioned agencies on the decibel level of seismic charges used in exploration. And the answer: ''They couldn't tell me. They didn't know.''

In comparison, Anadarko had been forthcoming with any concerns raised.

''And again our issue is not with Anadarko. Our issue is with the Government. We don't have the policy or the capacity.''

He also expressed concern with Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges for not attending meetings.

Mr Cull agreed with Sir Mark that the Government should be doing more to alleviate exploration concerns.

In addition, he called for some of the exploration royalties to be set aside for regional economic development and risk mitigation.




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