Tom Lee / Stuff
The former historian property comprises over half an acre of bushland and offers views of the Wharekawa Estuary. Until recently, it belonged to the University of Waikato.
Historian Michael King’s Coromandel Writers’ Retreat may be part of a Hauraki Treaty settlement.
The Crown bought the half-hectare section at Ōpoutere, north of Whangamatā as part of the Treaty Settlement Landbank in April for $1.4 million.
The house was owned by King and his wife, Maria Jungowska, in the late 1980s, and has more recently been used by creatives and scholars from the University of Waikato as a vacation home and writers’ retreat.
The purchase comes after lengthy negotiations with the university.
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Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand Head of Crown Property Sonya Wikitera said the land would be returned to the Hauraki Collective – a group of 12 Hauraki iwi.
“The Crown purchased this historic site from the University of Waikato for the Treaty Settlement Landbank, so that they could offer the local iwi Hauraki collective a right of refusal,” Wikitera said.
“The university no longer wished to own the house and legislation giving effect to the Pare Hauraki class action deed has yet to be enacted.”
The University of Waikato bought the property – which includes more than half a hectare of bushland and views of the Wharekawa estuary – in April 2008 for $720,000, below market value at the time.
The residence, where King wrote many of his important works, could be reserved by academic staff for private use for a small fee, or used as a creative space for academic staff to write, free of charge.
However, in 2020 the university was told their below-market-value fees were a violation of tax regulations, Vice-Chancellor Neil Quigley said.
With the property requiring serious maintenance and being little used, selling it seemed like the most sensible route.
“It got to the point where maintenance costs were higher, and the challenges of running a facility like this a considerable distance from the university all started to weigh on us,” Quigley said.
The King family had until the end of January 2021 to buy the Ōpoutere house, but at the time his daughter Rachael King said she needed help preserving the “taonga” site.
Its identification as a potential Treaty settlement, however, nullifies all previous negotiations.
“We are very relieved that the house was saved from being sold on the open market, which would have been a real shame,” Rachael said.
“The market value of the house having doubled since we sold it, the family was unable to exercise our first right of refusal. I’m sure the house and land will be put to good use.
Quigley said he was happy to see a positive outcome after two years of negotiations.
“With … its potential to become a future treaty settlement, it is far better for the Crown to manage this process and these negotiations.”
He said the $1.4 million would go towards the university’s general capital development, but was “not earmarked for anything in particular.”
“The money will only be used to support our overall investment program in the university.”
Things was unable to obtain comment from Hauraki Collective President Paul Majurey by the publication deadlines.