Western Bay wins Local Government supreme award

Taituara Excellence in Council and Community Relations Award and Supreme Award. Photo: Supplied.

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A commitment to returning ownership of a piece of Matakana Island to its ancestral owners has seen Western Bay of Plenty District Council take out the top prize at the 2021 LGFA Taituara Local Government Excellence Awards.

Council’s transfer of Ownership of Panepane Purakau won the supreme award at Thursday night’s gala dinner as well as the award it entered: Minister of Local Government’s Award for Excellence in Council/Community Relations.

The project was an initiative to return 172 hectares of land to the five hapu of Matakana Island through a significant negotiation and community engagement process.

Council inherited the land at no cost from the Tauranga Harbour Board under the Local Government reorganisation in 1989. In a landmark decision at an extraordinary council meeting last year voted unanimously in favour to return the 172 hectares of land, commonly known as Panepane Purakau, to the five local hapu.

Council chief executive Miriam Taris says it is a proud day for the council to have its efforts recognised with a project demonstrating how council can work with its communities to fulfil their dreams and aspirations.

With a record number of public submissions received, 7549 in total, the campaign was described by a hapu representative as “a turning point in our community”, and stronger ties forged between all parties, adds Miriam.

“This level of public interest shows this was a transparent, simple, strong campaign that captured the hearts and minds of the community,” says Miriam.

“It was a significant organisational endeavour and was a true example of what sets us apart here at Western Bay. It shows Council’s organisational culture of service and support coming to life.”

Judges feedback included it being an exemplary initiative of successful engagement with Māori with strong elements of co-design, investment in relationships, and a commitment of time and resource to succeed.

Judges commended all partners for working together to right an historical wrong that fell outside the Treaty settlement process.

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