New owners unaware of Matawhero Bridge heritage status
Gisborne District Council investigations have revealed that an unusual set of circumstances led to the removal and destruction of the historic Matawhero Bridge.
As part of a treaty settlement late last year Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Trust became the owner of the land where the bridge was removed from. The Trust, as the new owner, was not made aware of the heritage status of the bridge.
“The bridge was listed in the Council's District Plan as a heritage item and resource consent would have been required to demolish or remove it”, says Resource Consents Manager Daniel Kingsford. “This was not done.”
“However, Council accepts that the Trust have provided us with a genuine explanation of the circumstances around the removal of the bridge remains. Equally, we accept that the contractors who physically removed the bridge were also unaware of its heritage status.”
“Council has decided to not take further enforcement action because of the unique circumstances of this case involving treaty settlement negotiations, the changing ownership of reserve land, public safety issues, and a heritage item where the custodians were unaware of its heritage status.”
The bridge was not located within Council road reserve. The land previously known as the Matawhero Wildlife reserve was until recently owned by the Crown and administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Correspondence from Nga Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Trust shows that during the lengthy time of their treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown they were never given any indication about the historic significance of the bridge remains or its formal heritage status under the District Plan. The trust was aware of the requirement to maintain public access to the land. They had concerns about the safety hazard the bridge remains presented. The Trust believed they were acting responsibly and in the interests of public safety.”
Information was provided to the Trust that Council was not responsible for the maintenance of the bridge remains. No information was sought, or given on the heritage status of the bridge.
“There are lessons to be learnt. With any change of ownership or land sale the parties involved should seek to acquire all the formal information that the Council has on the subject land. Such information is commonly known as a LIM (Land Information Memorandum) report. We will recommend to the Office of Treaty Settlements that such a report is routinely provided when land is exchanged as part of a settlement.”
“It is certainly regrettable that the bridge remains, with their historic significance are now gone. However, Council believes that the circumstances of this breach of the Resource Management Act are unique. It should not be seen by current or prospective owners of other heritage items that unconsented destruction or removal of listed heritage items may occur without the Council taking enforcement action under the Act.