Hapū prioritises 'kāpata kai' as Crown explores East Coast port locations

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Te Whānau a Tūwhakairiora is holding its ground against a suggested port development in Wharekāhika. This follows a feasibility study and $40m set aside by the government, which is investigating the coastal area on the East Coast. 

Protecting the coastal food pantry and keeping it sustainable is the mission objective for Te Whānau a Tūwhakairiora.

"It's our intimate relationship with our ocean, which is our shop. Families are going there every day, diving, feeding their children, their grandchildren, so that's the main thing," Ani Pahuru-Huriwai says. "Beyond that, we don't believe there will be jobs for our people, we don't in the slightest agree to something that will degrade our sea, our land, and the aspects of home."

A feasibility study was conducted under the last government, siting Wharekāhika as a potential location, but the idea has long been opposed by local hapū.

"At this stage, someone from the Crown has been sent by Minister Grant Robertson to speak with hapū, to the iwi, to groups in Tūranga Nuia Kiwa. Tey have made it to Tūranga but haven't yet made it to us. The stance of the iwi is in support of us. The Crown need to think of us the mana whenua. We have our aspirations, we've carefully thought about our livelihood for a long time, and wider Ngāti Porou, as well as the entire country. But they must come to listen to our wants - don't come with your own ideas about the livelihood of our community, of our hapū in Te Tairāwhiti and Ngāti Porou", Ani Pahuru-Huriwai says. 

Conservation Minister and East Coast MP Kiritapu Allan appeared to have ruled out Wharekāhika as a potential wharf location but suggests other coastal areas are still being considered.

Other areas considered

“There is definitely no government building of a port up in Wharekāhika. There was as you will recall prior to the election an undertaking or allocation of $40m set aside for a port development in and around the top of the East Coast area but there is no absolute undertaking that it would be in Wharekāhika. I understand they're looking at a range of sites up there but that's still subject to numerous processes before a determination is made. And the views of hapū in Wharekāhika, and Te Araroa, and all the way up and around that area will be significant for us,” Allan says.

Pahuru-Huriwai says that rail would be much more desired use of government funds.

“The ocean, our food source, will be clear and our seafood will be safe. We'll be able to export the goods from home to bigger towns. Tourists will be able to travel there, and we can live at home and travel into town. So there are many benefits for rail at home.”

“This is a call to the descendants of Te Whānau a Tūwhakairiora to come home and, if we get rail, you'll be able to find work as a livelihood for your offspring. The vision is that when the grandchildren of today grow up, the food source will still be there to feed us, a traditional customary right handed down from our ancestors so we must maintain it.”

Te Ao requested comment from Terra Fermah, which made the funding application but is yet to receive a response.