Patuharakeke question proposal to dredge Whangarei Harbour entrance

By Dean Nathan

Refining NZ, situated in the Northland region, produces over half of the nation’s petrol and 80% of its diesel supply from the Marsden Point Refinery.  However local iwi Patuharakeke are concerned at a new proposal to dredge the entrance to Whangarei harbour to allow access to fully laden oil tankers. 

A new proposal is at hand to dredge the Whangarei harbour again as its too shallow for fully laden oil tankers to enter.

Sjoerd Post, CEO of Refining NZ says, “What we hope to achieve is to bring in bigger boats but we're also pretty keen on doing this properly in terms of engagement with the local hapū.  When I talk to Māoridom I like the continuity in their thinking between the past and the future and leaving things that can be used by your ancestors in a good shape.”

That’s also the focus of the people of Patu Harakeke along with the many other hapū on Whangarei harbour.

Juliane Chetham (Patuharakeke) says, "The scallop harvesting areas, the pipi harvesting areas and the like.  When we have more technical information from the refinery, we will start to be able to assess what the impact on those relationships and values might be.”

The refinery stands on land confiscated by the Crown and currently employs over 500 staff.  If this proposal comes to fruition, production will increase from 600,000 barrels to over a million barrels per year. 

Though it’s at an early stage, Patuharakeke say to date it rates as the best consultation and relationship they have had on any development in their territory.

Juliane Chetham says, “There is a place for us at the table throughout the process so we're happy with the way it’s going.  I think it will be one to watch in terms of these types of resource consent processes and having a collaborative approach.”

Who knows it may result in an example of how to work proactively with the indigenous people.