Matapihi land owners are meeting with city council staff over the weekend to discuss resuming the construction of the Southern Pipeline project across Maori land.
The city council’s intention to install the pipeline over a paper road on an orchard has been stalled since July, although local owners have been expressing concerns about a lack of communication with the council over the planned pipeline since last October when they took the issue to the Maori Land Court.
The disputed paper road. Photo: Supplied.
“It’s over the weekend,” says Tauranga city council chief executive Garry Poole. “It’s a hui out there on site and its really just around some issues on the paper road, just getting some clarification from the parties about the paper road.”
Garry denies the accusation made to SunLive the council is going to be negotiating by chequebook.
“No. We don’t need to take a cheque book. We need to sort out where the pipes are going and what is the impact of the pipes, and talk to the adjoining property owners, etcetera,” says Garry.
“It’s really very much a discussion, so we all know what is coming in the next round of work.”
Maori land owners locked their orchard gates against the $102 million project in July, after learning the council intended cutting 12 avocado trees from the easement of the disputed paper road.
Construction has continued in the link under the highway to the treatment plant at Te Maunga.
The weekend discussions are an operational matter involving city council staff and contractors, and the property owners and the community.
“Being realistic about it, there will be I don’t know how many more meetings because as part of the process we are constantly talking to the community, so we can respond, adapt to concerns or issues that are raised both by them and by ourselves,” says Garry.
“This is just part of the process we go through when we are doing a project of this kind of magnitude.”
Maori owners challenged the previous standard of consultation in July saying they weren’t consulted about the paper road that is described in some early documents as a ‘Maori access way’, and not a paper road at all.
For some Matapihi land owners the pipeline is just the latest of a series of sequestrations of their land.
The Mount Maunganui Wharf and port area was built on 90 hectares of Matapihi owned land seized under the Public Works Act and for which they received no compensation. Part of the Tauranga airport land was similarly seized.
While the Matapihi community has made a significant contribution to the growth of Tauranga through the wider community’s use of its former lands, Matapihi itself has no sewerage, inadequate running water, and residents will not be able to connect to the $102 million southern Pipeline which will be carrying the sewerage from Omokoroa, Te Puna and The Lakes at Tauriko across their land.
After the rail bridge was completed across the harbour in 1924, about 30 mainly Matapihi residents died while crossing the bridge, mostly leaping to avoid being stuck by trains. They drowned at a rate of about one each year until a foot bridge was finally built in the mid-1950s.
Until the Maungatapu causeway was built in the 1959s, the only vehicle access to Tauranga from the Mount and Matapihi was via Welcome Bay. But Matapihi’s perceived distance from the city is partly strategic, says one owner who didn’t want her name published.
“The elders fought to remain rural because they knew that if we didn’t keep it rural, it (their land) would be taken much faster.
“Maungatapu is virtually lost to the Maori community, rated off their own land. Huria has very little land. Bethlehem is getting crowded. Tauranga city has run out of land and its moving out and it’s going to hit Maori land wherever it goes.
“In terms of city and community development, It is not going to help the city to have Maori people disconnected with their land. The opposite should be happening.”