3 Mar 2016

Pakiri Beach plans upset locals

11:08 am on 3 March 2016

People living near Pakiri Beach north of Auckland are accusing developers, the local iwi and the council of ambushing them with plans to develop their last wild stretch of coastline.

Pakiri Beach

Pakiri Beach Photo: Creative Commons / Piotr Zurek

More than 200 people packed into the tiny Tomarata Hall near Mangawhai last night to hear what has been proposed.

Many voiced suspicion, anger and disappointment as the developers of Te Arai south fronted up to an aggrieved Tomarata community to reveal their plans.

The joint venture by Ngati Manuhiri and developer John Darby Partners could build up to 60 luxury homes on hapu land set back from the beach that's now in pine forest.

John Darby partnered with neighbouring iwi Te Uri o Hau and American resort specialist Ric Kayne in the development of 46 luxury homes and an exclusive golf course which opened last year on tribal land at the northern end of the beach.

The Te Arai south project also allows for papakainga housing for the iwi, and possibly a campground.

The project is awaiting final sign off as a precinct under the Auckland unitary plan following mediation after the Te Arai Beach Preservation Society objected to it.

But many people at the meeting said they did not know about the proposal, and complained that last night was the first time they had heard the details.

More than 200 people packed into the tiny Tomarata Hall near Mangawhai to hear about the proposed plans.

More than 200 people packed into the tiny Tomarata Hall near Mangawhai to hear about the proposed plans. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Developers surprised

John Darby Partners spokesman Jim Castiglione said that surprised him since the proposal to develop the Te Arai south forest land had been published in the Auckland unitary plan.

"It was publicly notified information and everybody had the opportunity to make a submission," he said.

"Now we understand from the community tonight that they're feeling surprised. That's coming as a surprise to us, given that the Te Arai Beach Preservation Society made a submission."

However Marie Alpe of the Preservation Society said members had submitted mostly on the Te Arai north golf course development and had been unaware of the scale of what was proposed at the southern end of the beach until they were invited to a mediation meeting at the council.

"When we got there and realised the full import of what's being proposed, we went, 'hey, nobody in the community knows about this'," she said.

The society had asked for the public meeting as part of the mediation process.

No council representatives were at the meeting, and the developers said the staffer who was going to come had pulled out at the last minute.

Mr Castiglione said locals would not lose access to the beach, and that swathes of land would be set aside as council reserve to protect access to the beach.

"I know council would really like to find ways of enhancing camping, and other recreational opportunities. That includes surfing, fishing and so on."

Ngati Manuhiri would gift more than 200ha of land back to the council as coastal and stream reserves, to conserve the land, provide public access and expand the Te Arai Regional Park, Mr Castiglione said.

The tribe's settlement trust bought the forest land back from the Crown in 2012 for more than $5 million - more than half the quantum of their treaty settlement.

No apology

Trust chief executive Muka Hohneck said the development was a commercial one and he made no apology for that.

"We need to provide for the needs and well-being of our people into the future," he said.

Ngati Manuhiri had already gifted much of its land for conservation, including Hauturu Little Barrier Island.

"We have five regional parks in our rohe, and two marine reserves. No other iwi in New Zealand has that much recreational space for the local community," he said.

One woman at the meeting reproached the hapu for the development plan, saying Maori should know better.

But Mr Hohneck said Ngati Manuhiri felt it had contributed a great deal to conservation and recreation in the Auckland area.

Omaha marae chairman Roi McCabe said he was not personally opposed to the development of Te Arai south because Ngati Manuhiri needed to advance and secure the future of the people.

"It's about consultation," he said. "The trust has never come to Omaha marae with this proposal."

But Mr Hohneck said the settlement trust had a mandate of 98 percent of its 800 registered beneficiaries to go ahead with the development.

Despite sceptical laughter, one man was openly encouraging after hearing the developers out.

"I think you're doing a great job here," he told them.

"All this land to be vested in the council; better beach access, some roads being sealed; and if you make a profit that's your business, just like anybody else here."

The developers promised to be back for more meetings with the community as the project progressed.