Sunday, 3 November 2013

Why have a dog and bark too?

Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne is the only civic leader in the Bay of Plenty region not to publically support the full removal of the Rena from Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef near Motiti.
He is also a heavy proponent of the proposed marina in the Whakatane (Ohinemataroa) River.

Last week Mr Bonne attended the consultation hui at Wairaka with Whakatane District Council chief executive Marty Greenfell, council business services manager and Whakamax cinemas owner Aaron Milne and a three-member support team.
The meeting was a chance for tangata whenua to hear, “kanohi ki te kanohi”, about the council’s intentions for land at Piripai and a submission from the council’s development arm to draft district plan that includes a request to rezone 60 Bunyan Road to a deferred marina area.

In a move that some believed was sneaky and underhanded, the council had delivered its submission to itself in the last week of the time allowed without seeking any consultation from any interested party except through Te Runanga o Ngati Awa.
So the hui was to explain the move.  

And the admission that Mr Bonne did not support the full removal of the Rena was a sign that conversations weren’t going to be easy.
Mr Bonne said the council had come as the “landowner” of 60 Bunyan Road and the neighbouring 77 Bunyan Road.

The two sites have been publically identified by Mr Bonne and sections of the council as a potential marina precinct.
Mr Bonne said a retirement village with a marina and retail area attached at the two sites was the only way to grow Whakatane.

“We have never been misrepresented about what council envisions on that type of land. It is really only as half way step in terms of 60 Bunyan Road and in terms of what we put in the submission and that is a deferred marina zone.”
In support of the mayor Mr Greenfell said a sale and purchase agreement made with the Whakatane Marina Society in 2008 allowed for a memorandum of understanding that would enable “marina-type activity” if the conditions allowed for it.

He said the entire proposed development was projected to net the council $14 million.
“If we don’t sell we are going to have to make some changes in the longe term plan and there will be some rate increases. I was the one who has been pushing for a retirement village and there is interest out there for a retirement village.”

The signal was clear: they want their “marine precinct” and they want it there.
Requests to create a new “deferred marina zone” as outlined in the council’s submission, which can be viewed here may mean that in the future developers may not need a resource consent to build their marina.

Now, here is the reason why Ngati Hokopu with other Ngati Awa hapu including Ngati Pukeko and Taiwhakaea agreed to this meeting.
That site, 60 Bunyan Road, is a stone’s throw from one of the Ngati Awa’s most significant sites, Opihi Whanaungakore Urupa. The site of the proposed retirement village, at 77 Bunyan Road, is on land that many still believe is part of the ancient urupa and many Ngati Awa members actively oppose any development in these areas.

One of the many tools people are using to continue the defence of our wahi tapu, has been through the district plan process.
Submissions to the draft district plan closed on 13 September and the council received more than 200 from Maori. Many opposed the development of a marina and also the residential development at 77 Bunyan Road.

The submissions can be reviewed here and the Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka submission here.
On Thursday Mr Milne came to Wairaka marae again to meet with the Opihiwhanaungakore Trust.

The trust is the legal owner of Opihi Whanaungakore Urupa, and in the trustees’ eyes they are the kaitiaki, guardians, of that place.
Mr Milne had attended the previous meeting with Ngati Hokopu but this time he had only bought a legal advisor for support.

Again, though, his message was clear – the proposed marina was a priority for the Whakatane District Council.
Reiterating the mayor’s words Mr Milne said he spoke from the council as a landowner.

However he acknowledged the council had an obligation under the district plan process to consult including with tangata whenua.
“In order to give transparency and accountability to messages that the council divorces itself from being a statutory body.

“If the deferred marina zone as provided for any for development from there that requires the developer to go through a full resource consent consultation.”
He agreed the council had not been entirely open with tangata whenua and other related parties

“The council hasn’t been very good at this, in any type of move like this, and what the council should do, and usually does do, is get cultural impact reports.”
But Mr Milne had to admit that no cultural impact assessment had been done for 60 Bunyan Road. He could not answer who were the Ngati Awa representatives who had attended a field trip in 2006 with the Whakatane Marina Society and other parties, despite using it as an example of consultation.

Nor could he say what those representatives had said during that trip because there was no binding agreement from it.
Opihiwhanaungakore trustee Rapata Kopae was staunch in his position.

He said as a direct neighbour to the proposed marina site, the trust was the most affected party and should be considered.
“I would like to stand in front of you and tell you people that we will never go away… And that place is so tapu that you are never going to see a development over there,” he said.

So, here we are.
The answer is still no, not there, and their argument is, predictably, the economic benefits that may be derived from the development.

Therefore, while the war has been raging for more than 20 years it is not over and, again, it is going to be a long and arduous battle.
And, if we are to win and protect our ancient urupa and ancestors then we must have resources.

Now is the time for those in Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board to stand up and be counted. We are going to need legal, planning and financial support.
My challenge to the new TRONA board is: how are you going to help us?