7 Aug 2020

Ngāpuhi hapū preparing to occupy Bay of Islands public reserve

12:28 pm on 7 August 2020

Ngāpuhi hapū in a small Bay of Islands town are gearing up to occupy a public reserve to stop a neighbouring boatyard owner from using it.

Opua, in the Bay of Islands.

Opua, in the Bay of Islands. Photo: 123RF

The Northland Regional Council has been hearing public submissions this week on whether to grant Opua Boatyard owner Doug Schmuck consents to upgrade his boatyard and wharf which adjoin with the reserve.

Doug Schmuck has applied to the council for over 16 consents, including being able to discharge contaminants or para into the the air and land, and to reconstruct the slipway to keep using it for cleaning and maintaining his boats.

Maiki Marks, who has been fighting Schmuck's use of the reserve for 20 years, said that shouldn't be allowed.

"It's too close to moana tapu and our people, and in particular Treaty claimant Harry Mahanga, he as a customary fisheries officer, he observed para from those boatyard activities in the reserve, flowing into te moana tapu o piko piko whiti (the inner sea of the Bay of Islands) - that is our huge concern."

The whenua is small - less than a fifth of a rugby field - but it's significant.

Marks said it was the last piece of coastal public land in Opua - and she has brought a Waitangi Tribunal claim calling for it to be used for public purposes only.

She said this claim, along with the two other claims in the region - including one brought by Tā James Henare over 30 years ago, calling for all resource consents from 1987 onwards to be rescinded - have been ignored by both the Regional and the Far North Council.

"We have done everything under law to date, we have not been heard and nobody has seen our concerns and we've got no one else to turn to except ourselves and the only thing we can do is to break the law and to occupy the lands under claim."

The Far North District Council said the reserve and the slipway were not subject to Waitangi claims, and it said a previous Supreme Court decision did not find the council had failed to engage with tangata whenua.

The Northland Regional Council said it was unable to respond to matters that fell under the Waitangi Tribunal.

Ngāti Hine spokesperson Pita Tipene said the proposed new consents were a ploy by Doug Schmuck to take more public land.

Pita Tipene

Pita Tipene. Photo: Supplied

"He doesn't see any credence in the local Māori, hapū and iwi having any rights, interests and responsibilities and therefore, is only focused on getting that land and that waterway for himself and his own business."

He said hapū were preparing to occupy the land.

"This is not a threat but the people in this area in the Bay of Islands, particularly Ngāti Hine and Te Roroa who are the actual mana i te whenua in the Opua area are now starting to gear up for another Ihumātao unless the authorities stop turning a blind eye, and do the right thing."

Almost all of the 22 public submissions to the Northland Regional Council opposed the new consents.

In his submission, Schmuck said: "As a result of the history of the site and the relationship between the parties, the applicant has chosen not to engage in further consultation with tangata whenua, except to the extent of its obligations under the Marine and Coastal Act" - which he had notified "all known groups" about.

Schmuck said he hadn't closed the door on working with iwi - particularly when it came to the environment - but only if mana whenua met him halfway.

"If they want to talk with me and consult with me about it, it's not about pointing the bone at me in the first instance, but to come to me and say, 'hey look let's talk about this' because at the end, it's about a common cause between the two of us, which I'm not opposed to talking about.

"We've got to establish some common ground between the two of us individually because I refuse to speak to the likes of Maiki Mark who took the side of the people who totally ignored, or totally tried to set aside my resource consent for 20 years."

The Northland Regional Council said it was Doug Schmuck's right to not consult with tangata whenua under the Resource Management Act.

It also said there was no evidence of significant adverse cultural affects to the area if the consents were granted.

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