Waiheke island has become a flash point for Ngāti Paoa iwi members because of a marina development they were not fully consulted about. Protect Pūtiki, led by the Ngāti Paoa Trust Board is being supported by iwi members, locals and many others. The group is currently occupying land and sea space at Pūtiki, also known as Kennedy Point.
The dispute for Ngāti Paoa arose due to the consultation of only one of the two iwi representative groups, Ngāti Paoa Trust Board and Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust. While considering the marina development, Auckland council engaged with only the iwi trust, ignoring the trust board. The trust board said the blame falls with the Auckland Council.
Kennedy Point Boat Harbour Limited led by Tony Mair, who failed to win consent to build a marina at Matiatia on Waiheke, said it is following the process as was required of them through the Resource Management Act (RMA).
But the RMA has been heavily criticised since its inception.
Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick said on Spinoff, “The RMA doesn’t place enough emphasis on relationships with mana whenua”.
Former senior University of Auckland lecturer Te Kipa Kepa Brian Morgan notes in his paper, A tangata whenua perspective on sustainability using the Mauri Model, ”Robust methods for effectively incorporating the social and cultural impacts of a particular development activity have yet to be created.” Indigenous perspectives of the tangata whenua suggest that this will continue to be a problem until our collective cultural paradigm matures.
In the Spinoff article, Protect Pūtiki spokesperson Emily Māia Weiss said Pūtiki bay is an important place, “a space we whakapapa to …” where their ancestral moana and mātauranga are threatened with a potential marina development they were not consulted on. Protect Pūtiki not only seek safety for the land they whakapapa to but also for the protection of the Kororā (little blue penguin). There also exists frustration due to the privatisation of a public area.”
The fight has been ongoing since 2017, with the residential group Save Kennedy Point (SKP) fighting the proposal through the environmental and high court. Recently, the supreme court has terminated SKPs submission for appeal, leaving SKP with no legal avenue of resistance. SKP has since disbanded, setting the stage for Protect Pūtiki and their movement.
But the occupation has been marred by ugly scenes of violence and sometimes, a heavy police presence. On the 15th of July, 70 officers assembled on the site. Three Pūtiki protectors were arrested with videos showing police carrying kaumātua away from their land.
Land occupations have hit the headlines across the country recently, such as Pukeiāhua and Ihumātao, giving reason to question the current model in which New Zealand handles indigenous land disputes.
Both the Ngāti Paoa iwi trust and trust board are working to resolve the issue while the development continues.
All eyes on Pūtiki.