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Friday 2 August 2013

E oho

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 won.

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 executive.
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 Protection Zone.
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 marina easier.

“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 margins".
“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 site.
“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 version.

“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 necessary.”
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 significant site.
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 other disorders.

It is certain that the watchdog group Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP) will continue to oppose any development of contaminated land.
The runanga will also have a responsibility to ensure that the tribe’s concerns are voiced in the appropriate channels and our taonga is protected.

But it is necessary that we, the people, ensure our opinions are heard.

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.
Ma te wa