Maori influence over aspects of the Resource Management Act and other local government issues were among the concerns expressed by Western Bay of Plenty residents at a public meeting with Todd Muller on Monday morning.
The Bay of Plenty MP hosted a meeting with new residents of Omokoroa at the Omokoroa Community Church, and found himself involved in a lively discussion about the need to consult with iwi and hapu on various matters.
People from as far afield as Katikati came to voice their concerns to the National MP, perhaps hoping he would report back to the party leadership.
Among them was Christina Humphreys, who was active in the campaign against Maori wards. Like others present, she’s concerned in particular with the need to consult with local hapu/iwi when installing a water bore on your own property.
“A huge issue for this country is apartheid, to put it bluntly,” she says.
“To get a bore you have to get iwi consent, and they want a koha, which is not a gift, it’s a bribe.”
She asked what National would do to entice voters like herself and others back, who had abandoned the party over some of its recent policies, particularly the Marine and Coastal Area Act 2011, which allowed iwi and hapu to apply for customary title if they could prove continuous occupation of a coastal area.
Bev Cain also expressed concerns that terms in the RMA were too loose, and that hard evidence is rarely required by councils when responding to concerns raised by Maori.
She cites the recent proposed ban on horse riding at Tuapiro Point as an instance of this, after local hapu Ngati Te Wai claimed riders were trampling kaimoana beds.
“Was a marine biologist consulted? You need to back these things up scientifically.”
She says there are a number of hapu in Katikati, and if they all required a koha to install a bore, it could become quite expensive.
Bay of Plenty regional councillor Norm Bruning, who also attended the meeting, provided a counterpoint, praising his council for having racially-segregated constituencies.
“Most Maori just want to be heard,” he says. “They may qualify for areas of interest, and need to be represented.”
Although this was not exactly the purpose of the meeting, Todd patiently listened to the people’s concerns, before offering his own perspective.
“The RMA was introduced more than 25 years ago as an attempt to bring about a broader set of values required to reflect on as we change our use of the environment over time.
“My personal view is that we have lost the original intent of the RMA, which was to give environmental impacts particular priority.”
He says it’s quite defendable to remind people that nothing is done in isolation, and that we are all part of a connected ecosystem.
“The historical idea that you could do whatever you wanted with your piece of dirt has changed. If it has an effect on someone else, there is a process to fllow.”
He agrees, however, that bureaucracy means the processes that need to be followed can pile up – and that sometimes it can mean going the notified route is faster than non-notified.
In regards to Maori, Todd says the impacts of history must be dealt with today.
“Our history is cloaked in the Treaty of Waitangi not being upheld across the country. It has caused material hardship for people over generations, for those who had their land confiscated.
“It is not good for the country to have these outstanding claims, and New Zealand in 2018 has to have Maori and Pakeha both at the table.”
The remainder of the meeting was concerned with other local issues, such as the notion of a new secondary school west of the Wairoa River, and a tunnel or other route connecting the Western Bay of Plenty with the Waikato.