Tauranga marae surrounded by industrial firms worries about kaumātua health

By Te Rina Triponel

Ngāi Te Rangi is calling for intervention from the government as industrial companies surround one of its oldest marae.

The iwi says it's fearful of the impact the companies' chemicals will have on both tamariki and kaumātua.

Whareroa Marae and papakāinga is on one of the inner shores of Tauranga Moana which neighbours an industrial zone occupied by Ballance and Angrinutrients Lawter NZ, and Environment Manager Joel Ngatuere says hapū are at risk of air pollution.

Ballance and Angrinutrients Lawter NZ say they have strict monitoring and comprehensive systems to minimise emissions and odour but Ngatuere says there is hard evidence that the marae is being affected.

“We hold the government and district health board to account because for a long time they’ve known there’s been serious harm - but no one’s stepping in to protect our babies and kaumātua,” Ngatuere told Tapatahi.

Ngatuere says the iwi wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in August last year, asking for intervention but has not received a response.

No help from politicians

“We’re still waiting for [her] response.”

“Our invitation is still open to her and her whānau to come to Whareroa to see for herself.”

There has also been a lack of intervention from Māori representatives in the Labour parliamentary caucus who Ngatuere says will be held accountable.

Ngatuere says there needs to be better use of the land across Tauranga, particularly Mount Maunganui, and this includes preventing other industrial companies from entering the whenua and surrounding Māori communities.

“We’ll never leave. These companies are just employees, only invested in money. We’re invested in blood, tears, and hundreds of years of occupation.”

Anti-pollution organisation Clear The Air - Mt Maunganui has also expressed concerns to Tauranga City Council which says it's keeping a close eye on the area.

Not their odours

But the neighbours are puzzled by Ngatuere's comments and both say they are not creating the bad smalls the marae is claiming.

Ballance Mount operations manager Charlie Bourne says, "as a 100% farmer and grower-owned co-operative, it’s really important to us that our operations do not present any health impact for our employees and our community."

"We’re in regular contact with representatives from Whareroa Marae, hapu and iwi, openly discussing issues and sharing information. We’ve worked closely to develop and build an enduring relationship with 'all parties paddling in one waka' through the establishment of a He waka eke noa agreement and a community advisory group.

He says the cooperative has an air quality monitoring program with a monitoring station at Whareroa Marae.

"This continuously monitors SO2 and PM10 (dust) and the data is part of a package of information shared on a regular basis. We are operating below our resource consent limits.

"Any potential odours associated with our manufacturing process are very low and do not pose any health risk. When we are notified by either Bay of Plenty Regional Council or by Whareroa residents of smell issues in the industrial estate, we investigate immediately and, where possible, meet a representative from the marae. In all instances no noticeable or offensive odour has been detected from Ballance."

Air pollution control kit

The company also says ammonia nitrate is not used in New Zealand manufacturing and it does not emit nitrogen dioxide.

Another neighbour, Waste Management, says it has a good relationship with Ngati Kuru and it has worked closely with Whareora Mare over recent years over any odour concerns.

It says it has had recent communication about odour with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the marae, where it was agreed that the odour did not come from Waste Management's site

The company says after consulting with Ngati Kuku it installed an air pollution control kit at the site, which is working well to remove odorous hydrogen sulphide." We use both portable and fixed hydrogen sulphide detectors."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council has also installed hydrogen sulphide monitoring at the marae to track emissions and odour.