15 Sep 2017

Protesters jubilant at beachfront victory

8:16 am on 15 September 2017

The new owners of a Far North campground have pulled out of an agreement to lease a beachfront reserve, after a peaceful protest by locals.

Karikari story:   Perehipe reserve looking from beach towards Top Ten Holiday Park

Perehipe Reserve - looking from the beach towards the Whatuwhiwhi Top 10 Holiday Park Photo: Supplied

Carrington Jade, the owner of the Whatuwhiwhi Top 10 Holiday Park, wanted to use part of the Perehipe Reserve for campers in summer.

The camp's former owners had done the same for decades - but the new owners asked for a formal lease and the council agreed, despite strong community opposition.

Objectors said they had not known the beachfront land was public reserve until Carrington Jade applied to lease it, because it appeared to be part of the holiday park.

Two weeks ago, residents led by a local whānau with links to the land quietly pitched a tent on the reserve and vowed to stay there until the agreement was cancelled.

Their spokesperson, Caroline Snowden, said the protest was deliberately low-key.

"We didn't want it to be anything other than civil and peaceful," she said.

"There were certain people that we didn't let know and didn't involve, because we didn't want it to get out of hand."

But she said the whānau had made it clear they would not be budging, and they found out just yesterday that the council and holiday park had scrapped the deal.

The jubilant objectors were last night celebrating at a local pub.

Mrs Snowden said the holiday park owners had asked to use the reserve to accommodate an expected overflow of campers this summer.

"They said they already had people booked and lined up who had been coming there for 20 years. What we said as a whānau was, 'We're sorry that's not our problem. That is your problem.'

"The Chinese owners, they actually inherited this problem when they took it over, so we do acknowledge that. However the marae and community asked them to withdraw and they refused."

Mrs Snowden said she had been sleeping in her car at the occupation campsite for two weeks and would be glad to get back to her bed.

If Carrington Jade needed to accommodate an overflow of campers, they had plenty of room on the hundreds of hectares they were developing at their nearby luxury resort, she said.

"We told them if you are trying to build a relationship with this community, you need to show us some goodwill here by doing the right thing: return this [reserve] land to the rightful people - that is the people of the area," Mrs Snowden said.

The Far North District Council confirmed the holiday park owners had withdrawn their request for a lease.

They and the council would pay to fence the campground off, and the council would pick up the cost of maintaining the reserve, it said.

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