23 Dec 2017

Backtrack on controversial Te Mata Peak path

3:02 pm on 23 December 2017

A contentious walking track from the eastern slopes of Te Mata Peak in the Hawke's Bay will be removed.

The zig-zag track outraged local iwi for whom the hill is significant because it depicts the shape of an ancestral chief, Rongokako.

The view from the top of Te Mata Peak near Hastings.

The view from the top of Te Mata Peak near Hastings. Photo: filedimage/123RF

Iwi and the Environmental Defence Society threatened retaliation, including legal action.

But Craggy Range Winery, who created the track, today announced they would remove it and restore the land.

Chief executive Michael Wilding said he met with iwi this week.

"We never intended to alienate or divide any part of our community by developing the public track and we believe it is in the best interests of the broader community that a swift resolution occurs."

Once restored, the land would be returned to its previous owner.

Problems arose because the Hastings District Council chose not to publicly notify the track's consent, he said.

"It is also disappointing and frustrating that we find ourselves the first casualty of an updated District Plan that does not appear to align with community sentiment."

But he said legal action would only cost the taxpayers.

Ngāti Kahungunu Trust chair Ngahiwi Tomoana was thrilled with today's decision.

It was a "triumph" for special relationships.

"Us with the maunga, us with the owners," he said.

"I think it's surprisingly good, surprisingly stunning."

But he felt let down by the council and says the whole mess could have been avoided if they'd spoken to iwi.

"That's the miserable point about it all that we've had a strong relationship with council for 20/30 years and on this occasion they chose to ignore something that's really just poke you in the eye."

Mr Tomoana said he hoped it wasn't a sign of how the council planned to go on in the future.

The Environmental Defence Society also welcomed the news that the track would be removed.

Chief executive Gary Taylor said it was the right outcome and any legal action now would be "academic".

"The problem has been solved," he said.

"I think it's really important though for the council to review their consenting processes and I think also the government needs to have a fresh look at the notification provisions in the Resource Management Act."

Craggy Range Winery had been misled by the council, Mr Taylor said.

"Something like that development, which has implications both on a nationally important landscape feature but also cultural implications, should properly have been publicly notified."

If it had been notified the issues that have come out since the track was built would have been dealt with, he said.

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