6 Nov 2022

Mt Messenger bypass: ACT member backs petition against project supported by party

10:58 am on 6 November 2022
About 20 protesters broke through security fencing at Mt Messenger five days ago and have set up camp at the summit, erecting tents and a kitchen.

Protesters have gathered at the Mt Messenger bypass project. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Opponents of the $280 million Mt Messenger bypass in North Taranaki are getting help from an unusual corner - a member of the ACT party, which supports the project.

ACT list MP Nicole McKee will present a petition with more than 18,000 signatures to Parliament next week, which calls for the proposed bypass route on State Highway 3 to be scrapped.

The petition had been presented to the Minister for Transport Michael Wood last year but had not been progressed.

McKee said the people group promoting the "No Mt Messenger Bypass / Save the Mangapēpeke Valley" petition had gone through a lot to find out what had happened to the petition let alone get it submitted to Parliament.  

"The ACT party really believes that everybody should have the opportunity to bring petitions to the House and to be heard."

McKee had been asked to accept the petition from members of Ngā hapu of Poutama.

"I said 'yes' although I did point out to them that the ACT party have actually been in support of the Mt Messenger project and the road that goes through there."

Last week police attempted to remove a group of protesters from Mt Messenger after they set up an impromptu camp.

McKee said the petition needed to progress to either the Transport or Environment select committees.

ACT MP Nicole McKee sits on the Justice Committee in an estimates hearing for the Minister for Courts Aupito William Sio

Nicole McKee. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Local hapū were worried about native forest being lost and wetlands being disturbed, she said, and were not against the road being improved per se but wanted the existing route upgraded rather than a new bypass built.

"I think this is actually quite a big issue that needs to be looked at and dealt with, I would hope by a specialist select committee.

"When I met with family that presented me this petition some of them were in tears. They feel like they've been bullied."

McKee said Waka Kotahi had also been in touch with her while she was in Taranaki and invited her to tour the project site.

"Unfortunately, I had very limited time and could not, but I also pointed out to them that my role in this was actually just to pick up the petition and put it into the House so that they could have a voice inside and be heard by a select committee."

The Environmental Law Initiative group is threatening legal action if the Department of Conservation does not cancel a permit authorising Waka Kotahi to kill kiwi - and 45 other species - during the building of the bypass.

*This story has been updated to clarify the petition is not ACT policy. 

  • Alternative route for Mt Messenger Bypass would have saved forest
  • Protesters remain on Mt Messenger despite police operation to remove them
  • DOC permit allows kiwi to be killed on Bypass project
  • Mt Messenger bypass deal 'risks setting precedent' for more native trees to be destroyed