23 Feb 2021

Punakewhitu maunga earthworks: Council apologises for failing to consult hapū

8:50 pm on 23 February 2021

Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Council has apologised to hapū along Whanganui River for granting a resource consent that saw part of their ancestral maunga bulldozed.

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Whanganui River Photo: 123rf

Earthworks on Punakewhitu, which is privately owned by John Oskam, have been suspended, after dozens of members from the local hapū Ngāti Tuera and Ngāti Hinearo stepped in.

Ken Mair (Ngāti Tuera, Ngāti Hinearo) who is chair of Purengehu marae, which is situated less than a kilometre from the maunga, said it was a wahi tapū to his people, and was a part of their identity.

"It's deeply spiritual to us and immensely significant to us and to see this damage and desecration of our maunga by outsiders, I mean it really saddens and angers us and that's an understatement."

He said there had been no consultation, despite the hapū having relationships with Oskam and the council, and it was an "utter disgrace" they were not consulted as the local people.

Oskam said he was told by the regional council that he only needed to speak with the Whanganui River post-settlement iwi entity, Ngā Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui before commencing works.

This consultation was over a soil management plan to limit soil into Whanganui River, and was not about the earthworks, Ngā Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui (NTT) chairman Gerrard Albert said.

He said it had previously been made clear to Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Regional Council that they were to engage directly with relevant hapū.

"This situation is a classic example of the myth unfortunately continuing to be perpetuated by Horizons that one Māori is the same as another."

The council had failed to meet their responsibilities under the Resource Management Act and the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Settlement) Act, and Albert said it must urgently "own up to its failings and fix this situation".

The council's strategy and regulation group manager, Nic Peet, today issued a formal apology on behalf of the council to Whanganui hapū.

"Horizons apologises unreservedly for not including hapū in the consent process and for the hurt and distress caused as a result."

"Horizons also apologises directly to maunga Punakewhitu."

He said they would meet with hapū at Punakewhitu to convey the apology in person.

In terms of the work at Punakewhitu, Peet said they would be taking their lead from hapū.

Mair said the hapū were now focused on how they could fix their maunga, although they had been told it may be damaged beyond repair.