A packed public gallery burst into applause as Gisborne District Council yesterday carried a resolution to support the restoration of wharves at Tokomaru Bay and Wharekahika/Hicks Bay.
Earlier at the full council meeting held in the council chambers, Mayor Meng Foon praised the passion, enthusiasm and dedication of the local people who travelled up to three hours to be at the meeting.
They made the trip to respond to a staff report recommending “managed risk” for the two wharves and the creation of amenities for destination places around them.
The submitters saw this as the council deciding to let the wharves fall into the sea but this was denied by council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann.
The submitters applauded when a resolution moved by councillor Pat Seymour to give a public assurance was added to the final recommendation.
The council heard impassioned pleas for a commitment to the wharves from Wharekahika speakers Ani Pahuru-Huriwai and Kingi Houkamau, and Tokomaru Bay’s Andy Jefferd.
Ani Pahuru-Huriwai said the New Zealand Geographic Board last week made Wharekahika/Hicks Bay the official name for what had been known as Hicks Bay.
The wharf had been in their midst for more than 100 years. It had become an important cultural part of the community for the whanau of Tuwhakairiora and Te Aotaki.
It was a place where people fished and got kaimoana (seafood), and where marriages had taken place.
Kingi Houkamau said he did not know why the deputation had had to come to the council as the community had been working with council staff.
Two years ago he was told Tairawhiti Roads wanted to remove at least 20 metres of the wharf structure.
As chairman of the local hapu he contacted the council to voice their concerns and look at ways of addressing the situation.
Since then, everything had been working positively and the community thought they were making progress.
But in the past 24 hours there had been an onslaught of emails about the wharf after people learned about the council staff report.
On a mission to make wharf ‘great again'The staff had put a tremendous investment in time into the restoration. To him, everything was positive and moving forward.
Mr Houkamau said he was at the meeting to ask for the council’s support to prioritise the restoration.
“We want to make it great again,” he said. “I need you to allow this to get done. We don’t ask for much, we are a resilient bunch and unfortunately I had to drive three hours to come here and say that.”
He asked the council to make it a priority.
At the end of the submission the community thanked Mr Foon for his service, and presented him with a taonga — a copy of history book Wharekahika: He tirohanga hou, by Lloyd Lawson.
Andy Jefferd, of the Tokomaru Bay Heritage Trust, said they were shocked to learn of the council recommendation to basically abandon the wharf with all its history and let it collapse into the sea.
“Well that is not going to happen,” he said to loud applause.
Like Tolaga Bay, the Tokomaru Bay wharf would provide another must visitor destination.
Tourists were tired of the big cities.
“Let us share the load and give them an authentic Coast experience,” he said.
The trust had a vision for the future for their mokopuna and the locals to swim and kayak off the wharf.
He asked for permission to go ahead with repairing the first four piles through trust funds.
The project had been given a “big tick” from Treasury but had been “stymied at the local level for some reason”.
Pat Seymour moved two additional recommendations — that the council publicly support restoration of the wharves subject to funding; and it allow the Tokomaru Bay trust to restore the first four piles using their funding.
Ms Thatcher Swann pointed out there was nothing in the report suggesting staff were going to sit back and watch the wharves collapse into the sea.
Staff were always going to work with the communities in a phased approach to achieve the restoration.
“I think there is some misunderstanding in terms of what this report was about,” she said.
Mrs Seymour said the report did say that if the wharves collapsed, the council would manage the risks.