28 Nov 2019

Lake Horowhenua activist vows to keep gates locked until ministers listen

1:23 pm on 28 November 2019

A Māori activist is vowing to keep the public gates into Lake Horowhenua locked until government ministers listen to his concerns.

The gates at Lake Horowhenua, which has been locked shut in an activist's protest.

The gates at Lake Horowhenua, which has been locked shut in an activist's protest. Photo: Supplied

Phil Taueki, who has been been occupying land beside the lake for 15 years, has waged a long-running dispute with Horowhenua District Council to clean up the lake.

It's owned by Manawatū iwi Muaūpoko, but after a parliamentary act in 1905, its administration and management became the responsibility of a government-appointed board.

It's now managed by the board and the Department of Conservation.

Mr Taueki operates without his wider iwi's support, and yesterday he locked the gate and put up signs saying the lake is closed - although he has given keys to the local Sea Cadets and a dog club.

The Waitangi Tribunal has found there were significant treaty breaches in the way the lake has been controlled and administered.

Mr Taueki said he wanted the Crown to follow the tribunal's recommendations to dissolve the board and set up a new governing body.

Phil Taueki has lived beside Lake Horowhenua for 13 years in protest at its degradation and the loss of his iwi's rights

Phil Taueki. Photo: Supplied

He said he wanted either Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta or Crown-Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis to get in touch and say how they were going to resolve the problem.

"This lake has never been sold, it's never been transferred, it's still in private ownership.

"The certificate of ownership has my name on it, along with about 1500 other people."

He said he would keep the gates locked for as long as it took.

"Maybe when the Pākehās' rights are slightly imposed on - i.e. they can't come down to the lake - maybe then they'll [pay] some attention."

Police said they were aware of a protester having locked the gate but were not involved at this point.

DOC lower North Island director of operations Reg Kemper said because of a 1956 law the department was tasked with chairing the Lake Horowhenua Domain Board - a role he undertook by virtue of his role at the department.

He said it was not a DOC matter because the land Mr Taueki was protesting on was not public conservation land but a mixture of Crown reserve and Māori-owned land.

"The Domain Board manages public access to the reserve and has not authorised Mr Taueki to lock the access gate.

"He has locked the same gate in the past and the Domain Board [has] previously reminded Mr Taueki that he is not authorised to lock the gates and [has] had the padlocks removed," Mr Kemper said.