Rotorua Golf Course land has been transferred from the Crown back to Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust, as representatives of the original Ngāti Whakaue owners.
A Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed on between the club and trust that allows for course redesigns as well as looking into jobs and scholarships for Ngāti Whakaue.
The land on which the Arikikapakapa (Rotorua Golf Course) is on was originally gifted by Ngāti Whakaue as a recreation reserve and was previously held and managed by the Department of Conservation.
The land will continue to be leased to the Rotorua Golf Club (RGC).
Pukeroa deputy chair David Tapsell said as the landowners, they could provide greater security of tenure for the club to allow them to confidently fund several course improvements and upgrades.
“That will not only support a better golf offering for locals, it will also encourage greater golf tourism given RGC’s proposals to redesign parts of the course layout to take better advantage of the unique geothermal features of the land.”
He said this was important as part of a greater Covid recovery plan across the city.
The MOU also meant they, as the landowners, could be part of the course redevelopment project, which would include representing their cultural foundation over the whenua.
The trust and club also agreed to explore employment opportunities for Ngati Whakaue, which may include greenkeeping and course apprenticeship roles.
“We are also looking to develop a Ngāti Whakaue golf scholarship programme which we will support.
“The transfer of the Arikikapakapa golf course land is a further step towards us satisfying one of our key strategic goals, namely the return of our traditional whenua.”
Club chairman Leith Comer said he fully supported the transfer, with Pukeroa as “the rightful owners of this land”.
“It made no sense for the Crown through the Department of Conservation to continue to own this land.”
The club had a good relationship with the trust and already agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding that provided mutual benefits which he said could never be achieved with DoC when it was the landowner.
“Among other things, this will allow us to plan for our future developments with much more certainty.”
The Department of Conservation has been approached for comment.