22 Dec 2015

Hapu fight with farmer over land access

9:54 am on 22 December 2015

Ngāti Kere has followed a paper road over private land and to the beach, after more than a decade of being stopped from accessing their traditional kai grounds.

Ngāti Kere members made a pontoon to cross the stream

Ngāti Kere members made a pontoon to cross the stream Photo: Supplied/ Raina Ferris

The Porangahau farm stops access to the beach and despite numerous attempts by the Central Hawke's Bay District Council and Maori to broker a deal, owner Frank Gordon would not budge.

The farm borders Blackhead Point Beach on the East Coast, and the Ngāti Kere hapu had been using it to access the beach for hundreds of years.

The farm has two paper roads - roads that are unformed but legally recognised - providing public access to the beach but they are not actual roads and have a stream running through them, preventing any direct access.

Council chief executive John Freeman offered Mr Gordon a land swap, so the paper road could be closed and a new route created to give public access.

An initial understanding between council, hapu and the Gordons was agreed and tens of thousands of ratepayer dollars were spent on fencing a new road to the beach.

Frank Gordon's Porangahau farm

Frank Gordon's Porangahau farm Photo: Supplied/ Raina Ferris

But Ngati Kere member Jim Hutcheson said large concrete boulders had since been put over the road.

"The gate arrangement through the road we'd made started to change where he put a lock on there, it deteriorated and now someone has gassed it off and he dug his toes in and now there are big concrete blocks," he said.

Mr Gordon's lawyer, Steve Lunn, said his client disputed he had reneged on the deal.

Both parties were frustrated and no intermediary had ever been able to get the deal to fly, he told RNZ.

A map showing Blackhead Point Beach

A map showing Blackhead Point Beach Photo: Google maps

Mr Hutcheson said Ngāti Kere had not previously tried the paper road because the access was too difficult but it was left with no choice.

"The road we'd fenced - the exchange road - wasn't an option. It had too many fishhooks around it and the only option we had was to go down the paper road."

An estimate to build a bridge over the stream in the paper road had come in at $400,000 so the hapu decided to try building a barge.

A 50-strong group of Ngāti Kere members set off down the paper road last weekend and constructed a pontoon using 20 gallon drums and wooden frames.

"And then we put our planks on it and everyone screamed for joy and then we had to put something on it. I wasn't going to put my vehicle on it so then we said 'why not see if it will sink by putting some people on it'."

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Photo: Supplied/ Raina Ferris

He laughed as he described putting 30 people on it.

"It didn't move or go down, so two tonne of human flesh if you like, so we knew that we could put a vehicle on it so we chipped the bank off and put metal down drove it on and everyone screamed that we'd done it - so we've got a barge we can put a vehicle on."

Mr Freeman said he still hoped a deal could be done between Mr Gordon and Ngāti Kere.

Whatever the long-term result, the hapu will have kina, paua and cray on the table for Christmas.

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