"It is for your sake that
we drink the milk and eat those apples." - George Orwell, Animal Farm.
With an asset base of $110 million and net surplus of $1.3 last financial year, Te Runanga o Ngati Awa is responsible to more than 19,000 people who claim Ngati Awa as their tribe and it is our job to ensure that our leaders make the right decisions for us all.
The Whakatane Marina Society wants to build a seafront
development near one of Ngati Awa’s most culturally significant sites.
Outlined in the Whakatane Beacon earlier this month, the
plan includes a marina with a retirement village and residential development.
The front story painted a foregone conclusion with a large
developer fronting the project and sympathetic supporters illustrating the
benefits of such a development.
However what was missed is the opposition to the proposal
and the understanding that there will be many battles fought before any war is
And that is why I went to the meeting and workshop held by
Te Runanga o Ngati Awa last week.
The two-part meeting was held to help the tribe’s hapu
create a submissions to Whakatane council’s proposed District Plan.
On my mind was one issue: the marina.
It is not that I object to a marina on the Ohinemataroa
(Whakatane) River. I know that its development would help stimulate the
Whakatane economy, perhaps create jobs and definitely attract money.
It is just that I will never accept a marina at that site.
Driven by the Whakatane Marina Society, responsibility for
developing the marina proposal has now been given to Whakatane Marina
Developments Limited (WMDL).
WMDL has a memorandum of understanding with the Whakatane
District Council for the purchase of a site at 60 Bunyan Road.
Another Council−owned parcel of land near the mouth of the
Orini Canal is also included in the memorandum of understanding.
The council is keen to see the development because it means
they will be able to sell that land for $11 million. It is interesting to note that the sale of
that parcel of land is a priority for the council’s chief
However before any commitment can be made developers must ensure
the rules (including the Whakatane Council’s District Plan and the Bay of
Plenty Regional Council’s Regional Coastal Management Policy) will allow for a
marina at that site.
The Bunyan Rd site, to be used in the development, is
separated from the Whakatane River by the Orini Canal and a narrow strip of
land that runs between the two waterways. This strip of land is part of the Coastal
A Coastal Protection Zone is a strip of land adjacent to the
coastal marine area along the coastline, according to the Whakatane District Council.
“This zone is intended to define the area in which the plan
will manage those adverse effects of development or use which are likely to
have a direct effect on the visual amenity and/or ecology of the coast, harbour
and river margins, and may provide a level of protection against coastal hazard
events. This zone will predominantly be an open space zone, not generally
intended for development. "
WMDL have made a submission to the council’s draft District
Plan requesting the site be rezoned to rural. This will make developing a
“Most of the marina
site is fiat land that is used seasonally for cropping. Towards the eastern end
of the site Council has constructed a series of ponds which have been used occasionally
as settlement ponds for material dredged from the Whakatane River,” says Tim
Fergusson in the submission.
“Council currently holds resource consents enabling the use
of the dredging settlement ponds and deposition of up to 250,000m3 of dredged
material on the site. A small area of land at the far eastern end of the site
adjoins the tidal estuary section of the river.”
The submission goes on to say the physical characteristics
of the site, its land use and environmental values are very similar to the
adjacent property to the west and are rural in nature.
“The marina site does not exhibit high natural character or
amenity values and although the site adjoins the Orini Canal, it is not located
on the river margin. It is therefore considered to be appropriate to rezone the
site from Coastal Protection Zone to Rural Zone, with the exception of a small
area at the eastern tip of the property.”
WMDL also state that the Coastal Protection Zone is intended
to apply to sites where land use activities are likely to have a direct effect
on the "visual amenity and/or ecology of the coast, harbour and river
“In this case, the strip of land between the Orini Canal and
the Whakatane River provides visual separation and an effective buffer between
activities on the marina site and the river margins.
“Activities on the marina site are no more likely to affect
the visual amenity values of the river than activities undertaken on the
residential zoned land to the north or rural zoned land to the west of the
“The potential for direct effects on the ecology of the
river is also avoided by the physical separation from the Whakatane River.
Although the marina site directly adjoins the Orini Canal (which flows into the
Whakatane River), a Regional Council floodgate controls flows in this waterway.
“The marina site's proximity to the Orini Canal does not
increase its potential to affect the ecology of the river any more than any rural
properties adjoining either the Kope Canal or Orini Canal further upstream.
Even then, this is an indirect effect.”
The submission closes with a statement that the designation
in the Operative District Plan is outdated and should be changed in the revised
“This is a historical designation which originated from a
proposal to develop 60 Bunyan Road for use as playing fields. As is evident by
Council's intention to divest the land, this designation is no longer
But the WMDL misses two crucial points.
The “marina site” is within a stone’s throw of the Ngati Awa
urupa, Opihi Whanaungakore.
Under WMDL’s proposal there is a “buffer zone” between the
site and the urupa however the water entrance to the site will be right next to
the ancient cemetery.
The final resting place for some of Ngati Awa’s most notable
leaders, Opihi Whanaungakore is considered a wahi tapu and a culturally
Opposition from the iwi is, therefore, likely to be strong.
Secondly the site that WMDL propose to dig up and develop is
a known contaminated site.
One of 36 known contaminated sites in Whakatane, that land
was used in the 1960s to dump toxic waste from the Whakatane Board Mill. It has
been proven that the chemical which has leeched into the soil at those sites
can lead to diabetes, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, auto-immune diseases and
It is certain that the watchdog group Sawmill Workers
Against Poisons (SWAP) will continue to oppose any development of contaminated
The runanga will also have a responsibility to ensure that
the tribe’s concerns are voiced in the appropriate channels and our taonga is
But it is necessary that we, the people, ensure our opinions are
I am in the process of writing a submission to the council’s
proposed District Plan on behalf of my hapu, Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka.
Stopping the development of a marina at a site near Opihi
Whanaungakore is important to Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka because it is not the
appropriate location for that sort of development.
We intend to oppose WMDL previous submission to the draft
District Plan and support the retention of the Coastal Protection Zone for the
land needed for proposed “marina site”.
I am sure we are not the only hapu who hold this belief.
However I was
disappointed that when I went to the meeting and workshop held by the runanga,
there were only three hapu represented.
It is important that we all have our say because we do not
want to have to tell our children and their children that: one day we woke up
and there was a marina in our backyard keeping our tipuna company.
The runanga is holding another meeting on August 13 and then
a workshop on August 15. I encourage others to attend or to start putting
together submissions for their hapu because this is important.
Submissions to the council’s proposed District Plan close on
September 13 and we must engage if we are to be navigators of our own destiny.