Te Ōhākī Marae Māori Land Court application dismissed

By Mere McLean
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Judge Coxhead of the Māori Land Court this afternoon dismissed an application made on behalf of beneficiaries of Te Ōhākī Marae in Reporoa.  The applicants had wanted to stop a decision made by their Trustees to go forward with Contact's Energy plan to build a flood protection wall near the marae. 

There is discord between the Trustees and beneficiaries of Te Ōhākī Marae, Reporoa.  Today they met in the Māori Land Court, Rotorua, to see whether they move forward with Contact's Energy plan to build a flood protection wall 'bund' near their marae or not. 

Peter Staite (Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Whaoa) says, “To put a wall between us and the mighty Waikato River is offensive it does not belong.  It is not in keeping with the protection that is granted by the NZ Gazette notice or the Māori Reservation notice that is said to protect our just rights.”

Currently, Te Ōhākī Marae is situated next to the Waikato River and is at risk of flood damage and being submerged.  In 2013 a mitigation agreement to build a flood barrier to protect the marae and lands was made between Contact Energy and the marae trustees.  In 2011 another option was to relocate the marae.

Te Ōhāki marae representative Valerie Moengaroa says, “It split our family up because it put us on opposite sides.  There were some of us fighting for it back then and the information given to all our whānau when we became elected in 2013 was that we were now safe to stay.”

The task before Judge Coxhead was to assess whether the trustees had acted within the law, whether their decision to go forward with building the wall 'bund' was correct and whether they consulted sufficiently with whanau.  In his opinion they had.  Many from the marae feel torn. 

Moengaroa says, ““I believe that as Trustees we have misled our people.  We've misled them into believing.  From taking them away from wanting to relocate, giving them false hope that we should remain forever, be safe, and now we are back in that same scenario again.”

The construction of the bund commences next week.