Local iwi opposes new Whangārei Airport site

By Tumamao Harawira

The Whangārei District Council has chosen a controversial site for a proposed new airport terminal, despite concerns by local iwi.

Twenty-nine sites had been identified as potential sites, with just one now remaining, Ruatangata.

Last week the council voted for Ruatangata, just north of the city, as its preferred location for a new $150m airport although the majority of public submissions had instead wanted the airport in Onerahi to remain.

Nicki Wakefield, a spokeswoman for local hapū issues, says Māori in Whangārei feel they have been left out of the conversation.

"We didn't get any direct engagement from the council until Joe Public was engaged to have a chat about where the airport's going to go."

"Patuwairua stream flows right through the site. There's wāhi tapu. There's a wairere (waterfall) of importance there. There's great concern. We are also worried about climate change. We've got an uncertain future. Do we need a large airport in Whangārei?"


Local iwi concerned about new airport terminal site. 

Effect on tribal land

And Wakefield says that of even greater concern for hapū is its people, and what an airport would do to their tribal lands.

"In the rohe o Ngāti Kahu o Torongare, it's very close to Pipiwai. We are also Te Parawhau through there - it's a really important area."

Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai says while the vote chose Ruatangata as a potential new site, she went to great lengths to assure people that no concrete decision had been made.

"This is definitely the beginning of a longer-term conversation with many people who may be affected by this decision in the future. So part of the next steps will be to go into full consultation with the communities which include the marae at Ngāraratunua."

But she admits a lot of work needs to be done.

"There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to go into improving the roading infrastructure, and so these decisions are long-term into the future, but it gives us a great chance to talk with people now about the potential impact and things that we should be taking into account for a future decision."