Matakana Island blockade draws settlement concerns

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

A Matakana Island elder is concerned the actions taken to place debris as a blockade at Panepane Wharf, may jeopardise negotiation talks with the Western Bay of Plenty District Council to have the area returned to the island's Ngāi Te Rangi tribe.

Hauata Palmer is hopeful the land he calls home will soon return to his people.

“This issue started when the island was confiscated last century,” says Palmer (Ngāi Te Rangi).

“Now the District Council want to transfer ownership of [Panepane Point] to us, the home people.”

For the last five years, Ngāi Te Rangi has been negotiating with the district council to transfer ownership of Panepane Point at the southern tip of Matakana Island to the tribe.

“In discussion with the mayor this morning- Mayor Garry Webber- we did not see from the council's perspective that it would jeopardise any of those ongoing discussions for the claim,” said Western Bay of Plenty District Council CEO deputy, Gary Allis.

“We saw this as an isolated incident.”

Piles of barbed wire and a sign saying this is the tribal boundary of various sub-tribes, "Bugga Off" - and signed by hapu elder Bob Rolleston, was dumped at the wharf recently and has Palmer concerned.

“Visitors come here for a short while, light fires to cook their food and leave the embers burning, then they wander into the forest. That is one of our concerns,” he said.

The council says they're not in a position to stop people landing at the council-owned area at Panepane Point.

“They're landing from two sources.  One is from private boats, so you could get up to 50 boats there in a day.  We also have the Kewpie, which is a ferry around the harbour, that will land visitors for the day on the island,” said Allis.

The Western BoP District Council have placed any development plan for the land on hold, pending negotiation discussions that are expected to be settled this year.