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Hicks Bay will decide

The “home people” will decide what happens in Wharekahika, Hicks Bay.

That was the message from Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou to the local community and hapu, who have fears of a port being developed in their bay.

TRONPNUI met with more than 150 people at Hinemaurea Marae yesterday to discuss the issue, including the Wharekahika, Matakaoa and neighbouring communities, along with whanau who whakapapa and have land in the area, but live away from the area.

The issue has been met with opposition by many of the iwi kainga (local people) over the past two years.

Signs and placards with, “No Port in Hicks Bay”, and #Mana Moana adorned the gateway entrance to the marae.

A petition with around 3700 signatures against port development was presented at the hui.

The initiative had been presented to the Crown in February by TRONPNUI when Government ministers met Tairawhiti leaders to discuss development in the region.

It was to look at an alternative route for transporting logs out of the forests located at the top of the East Coast.

Whaimutu Dewes, a board member of Ngati Porou Holding Company, a subsidiary of TRONPNUI, assured the people of their role.

“What happens here at home will be decided by and large by the home people.

“I just want to make that quite clear. I’m quite confident in giving you that commitment.”

TRONPNUI chief executive Herewini Te Koha assured them there was no approval for a port, but encouraged the idea of carrying out a full feasibilty study.

“If the answer is no from the people, then let it be an informed no,” he said.

“If there was a port in the north (northern end of the East Coast), certain benefits could arise for our forestry. The big word I want to emphasise is ‘if’.

“There is no proposal completed or submitted. There is no resource consent application to seek approval to develop a port.”

Ngati Porou Holding Co has already carried out a pre-feasibility study, but is looking to carry out a full feasibility report in a joint effort with Eastland Port and land development company Terrafermah Ltd.

Prior to the pre-feasibility study, Terrafermah had been in the community, independently working towards their own stand-alone feasibility report.

Terrafermah obtained a lease agreement with a land owner, whose land has been identified as the area central to possible port development.

Both groups hit road blocks in their studies.

Now, with Eastland Port’s expertise in port operations, the three groups are looking at doing a full study.

“We want to put all of that intellectual property into a process,” said Mr Te Koha.

They might still find that the development was too expensive, and the cultural, social and environmental expectations were not met.

Some of the iwi kainga still resisted the idea and were not interested in a feasibility study at all.

“I don’t want a feasibility study, its not going to change my mind,” said local woman Louina Houkamau.

“Spend it on what we want. Not what other people want. Invest in small businesses within our hapu. It’s very clear. Empower us to be self-sufficient. I do not want a port in Hicks Bay,” said hapu member Arlouise Brooking.

Others did want to keep an open mind to having a feasibility study, for the purpose of making an informed decision, but also as as a protection mechanism against anyone who might desire to build a port in the future.

Concerned at lack of communicationIf the answer was no in the study, they could put it in front of them, she said.

“I don’t want our kids to have to go through this again in 30 years,” said Hicks Bay man Pohatu Poutu.

There was a suggestion by the iwi kainga to seek funding to carry out their own independent study.

Wharekahika Maori Committee chairman Kingi Houkamau raised concerns over the lack of communication from TRONPNUI to the community about the process since it began two years ago. Yesterday’s hui was only the second one in 18 months.

Mr Te Koha acknowledged there had been a failing in transparency, but they would now commit to having monthly hui with iwi kainga, as well as workshops in Wharekahika where people could have an input into the feasibility study.

“Your participation doesn’t mean that you’re for it (the port),” he said.

“It means you will have your eyes on it (the plan).”

Mr Te Koha reminded the community that the Nga Rohe Moana o Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Bill was yet to be passed, and when it was, the mana of the takutai moana (foreshore and seabed) would legally reside with the hapu.

Any matters regarding resource consent or development would need to be legally run by the hapu of the area.

NO TO PORT: The message was clear from many of the whanau of Wharekahika, Hicks Bay, at a community hui about port development in the area yesterday. It was a full house in the Hinemaurea Marae dining hall as the community met with Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou, who wish to carry out a feasibility study in a joint venture with Eastland Port and land development company Terrafermah Ltd.