17 Oct 2014

Some Māori 'sickened' by marina decision

7:04 pm on 17 October 2014

Some Far North Māori say they are sickened by the decision of independent commissioners and the Northland Regional Council to allow a multimillion dollar extension of the Opua marina to go ahead.

Opua

Opua. Photo: Photo NZ

A hearings committee has granted consents for the existing marina to be expanded to accommodate more yachts and boats.

The Taumarere River and its estuaries flow into the Waikare Inlet near Opua.

The committee found that the interests of Māori were taken into account, but a spokesperson for the Karetu Māori Committee, Ngati Manu Iwi, Te Uri Karaka and Te Uri o Raewera Hapū disagrees.

Arapeta Hamilton said they were sick and tired of the council giving resource consents to people who further pollute the water and action was needed to improve its quality.

"They want to extend the marina by another 100-plus berths. It's going to impede the water flow, our traditional navigation of the awa and increase the number of boats actually using the river. They have a pump out facility which often breaks down - so when that breaks down the yachties put their sewage into the water, it's a desecration of the awa," she said.

"We've been saying that for more than 20 years to the regional council that we are sick and tired of them polluting our awa and something needs to be done to improve the quality of the water and continually giving resource consents to people to do whatever they want and 'never-mind-us' is absolutely sickening."

Arapeta Hamilton said the decision meant the iwi's mana was being trampled on.

"We have been the kaitiaki of this awa for centuries and within the last 174 years we've been subjected to a Crown that just bulldozes us around and doesn't take any notice of what we say. The report says Māori interests have been taken into account. I disagree. Far North Holdings has met with us twice and only this year. They've been meeting with other groups all over the place, but deliberately ignored us for whatever reason, so we're sick and tired of the divide and rule strategy that's adopted."

Mr Hamilton said economic interests were taking precedence over environmental ones.

"At the first application hearing when the marina was initially built they promised jobs for local people and for our people, but none of them were ever employed during the construction phase."

He said the bed of the river was a taonga (treasure) and a wahi tapu (sacred place) and that any dredging such as that proposed in that application, would have an effect on it.

"The effect of dredging could impede the flow of the water and the currents which fish migrate by. If they were to do dredging now, at this particular time, they will effect the young baby eels going up the river, if they do it in March, they effect the eels coming down.

Mr Hamilton said the authorities were taking a very Pakeha and scientific approach that was not taking into account tikanga (custom) and the iwi have been challenged at meetings about what they base their opinion on.

"We went to the hearing and they go 'aw and what studies have you done? Done any marine biological studies of the river? When you say that the pollution is causing a decrease in the shellfish population where's your evidence?'. So we are writing up a proposal. We are going to do a biodiversity research project on the awa to find out what the species are located in it and the health of the river and water quality. We know that people are saying it's the worst in the country, but it's actually having the evidence to say to the powers that be, 'our awa is the worst in the country, these are the major pollutors' and come up with some strategies as to how to improve it."

Mr Hamilton said the Crown and its agents say they are the authority, but they have not been protecting the river.

He said a hui on the topic will be held this weekend.

"But let it be known we are not happy with the Northland Regional Council and Far North Holdings," said Mr Hamilton.

"This is the thing that people don't realise, for the fish species, that is their home. We've got a saying 'Kōtahi te wairua o ngā mea katoa, everything has a spirit therefore everything needs to be looked after'."

The Northland Regional Council refused a request by Te Manu Kōrihi to comment on the issue.