As an Ironman entrant, you might be excused for thinking I'd be alarmed at the thought of paying $40 for the commercial use of Lake Taupo during the swim leg of Ironman New Zealand.
Well, it doesn't bother me.
The Taupo District Council charges plenty for traffic maintenance plans; and other charges for use of ratepayer-owned facilities used for the event. When the 70.3 (half the distance) event was recently held in Auckland, Ironman organisers were again charged for many things related to commercial use of assets - roads, the events centre as a media base etc.
If a Maori tribe owns the lake, why should they be prevented from charging for commercial use of it, if Pakeha constructs do the same and no one makes a fuss?
Yes, this has come up late in the day, which is a surprise. One hopes that race organisers (Jane Patterson and her company) had asked the Iwi if they intended to charge, and got a negative response. I really hope this wasn't glossed over, because the warnings have been there for all to see for a year or two. For example, last year they had to get permission to use the lake, without charge. Now they have decided to charge.
Ironman has about two more years to go in Taupo, then the licence expires and the location is up for "tender" again. This furore will not help Taupo keep the event in the future; and so the Iwi will probably lose in the medium term when it moves elsewhere.
But for now, it looks like a cheque will be required. You can make an argument that no one should own a lake; and that returning it to Iwi as part of Treaty settlements was courting disaster. That's probably true.
But it's done now and won't be reversed.
Get used to the new reality.
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