Kaikōura mana whenua threaten to occupy land to stop cycleway built on burial sites

2:48 pm on 2 December 2019

Kaikōura mana whenua are threatening to occupy land to stop a walking and cycling path being built on burial sites at Mangamaunu, despite assurances from the rebuild alliance, NCTIR, it is looking for another location.

Protect Our Unique Coastline members Miriama Teahipuhia Allen (L) and Sharon Raynor standing at Óhau point, one of the stopping areas they oppose.

Protect Our Unique Coastline members Miriama Teahipuhia Allen (L) and Sharon Raynor standing at Óhau point, one of the stopping areas they oppose. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

There has been strong opposition from mana whenua to the cycleway which was approved without consultation with iwi, under the emergency legislation brought in after the 2016 earthquake.

Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura chair Hariata Kahu said they have always opposed the shared user pathway, and they've asked for work to stop.

She said it's been a battle trying to stop the rebuild alliance disturbing their wāhi tapu, which also include old pā sites.

"If things don't work or if things don't change, then we will have to take different measures because it's kind of getting to a point where there is desperation because whilst we are waiting to negotiate and work with NCTIR (Northern Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery) things are happening on our coastline ... the longer we wait, the more damage is occurring to these areas."

Ms Kahu also said that access to mahinga kai, guaranteed under the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act, is also being cut off, by new safety barriers, guard rails, and sea walls.

A Cultural Advisory Group (CAG) was set up, with representatives from the rūnanga, the transport agency, and KiwiRail, to provide input on roading plans, but Ms Kahu said Te Rūnanga representatives on CAG have "been feeling the pressure".

"I think in some circumstances they have probably been a bit railroaded into agreeing to some decisions, maybe not having a full understanding of what they were agreeing to."

She cites some of the formal stopping areas, which she believed the rūnanga representatives just had to go along with.

Transport Agency project manager Colin Knaggs said the rūnanga had mandated the members to sit on the advisory group, and NCTIR had provided a "cultural package" of artwork along the coast to tell the rūnanga's story.

But 20-year-old Miriama Tepuhia-Allen of Ngāti Kurī, standing at the new car parking area at Ōhau point, isn't happy about the changes.

"The history is gone, there is history here but you just can't recognise it anymore ... it's hard to know where a lot of the history is now ... it's hard to say, this here is this pā, and this here is this pā, because you just don't know anymore.

"It just looks like a construction site, the whole coastline now."

Ms Tepuhia-Allen has joined the protest group POU - Protect Our Unique Coastline - a group is made up of locals, mana whenua, divers and surfers.

Construction on the Kaikōura coastline, north of Half-Moon Bay.

Construction on the Kaikōura coastline, north of Half-Moon Bay. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

Protect Our Unique Coastline leader Sharon Raynor, also of Ngāti Kurī, said they're all fed up with the desecration of their coastline.

"The pain of the earthquake and everything we've suffered through the earthquake has been bad enough but to watch the ongoing brutal assault of our coastline is one of the hardest things to do, to see what they're doing now, because it's actually, this is man-made and at the hands of our government."

She said the final straw would be if the rebuild alliance (NCTIR) tried to build at Mangamaunu, and she is prepared to occupy.

Mangamaunu marae deputy chair Karen Starkey said the rebuild alliance has already compromised nine sensitive areas along the coast - but she wouldn't let that happen at Mangamaunu.

"I'm prepared to go and be chained to the road, I've already contemplated stopping the road, and I was prepared to do it [because] I feel so strongly about it."

While she supported the work of NCTIR in the beginning, to try and get the road opened as quickly as possibly, now they've gone too far.

"That transport mode was fine, but when you start adding, all you've done is come across our whenua.

"To suddenly see all of those sites, it's so heart-breaking, it has created a deep mamae, and I don't know that it can be healed, we just have to get on with doing the best we can, but that mamae to me is just so much."

A completed section of the shared user pathway that mana whenua opposed, built along Iron Gate.

A completed section of the shared user pathway that mana whenua opposed, built along Iron Gate. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

The resource consent for Mangamaunu was pulled end of last year, after the Surfbreak Protection Society sought a judicial review, which they've since withdrawn.

Any new consent will have to go through the RMA process, which would give iwi the opportunity to advocate for archaeological sites and wāhi tapu to be protected.

Transport Agency director regional relationships for the South Island Jim Harland said only five kilometres of pathway has been built, and the guard rails are for safety reasons as in some places there is a 10m drop.

"We're relooking again at the guard rail proposed to make sure there is guard rail where it is totally necessary, where it's perhaps not as necessary and providing good access to the coast for kaimoana and so on ... so we're in active discussions with the Rūnanga on those proposals."

He said they've stopped putting in guard rail for now.

A proposed alternative to the current pathway design, excluding the Mangamaunu section, will be voted on at a Rūnanga meeting this weekend.

New Zealand Transport Agency project manager Colin Knaggs said they would not do anything about the Mangamaunu section of the pathway for at least a year.