Sulphur Point’s Marine Park will remain a reserve, following a decision by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, released last week.
A proposal to revoke the reserve status of 0.7ha of Marine Park’s total 11.2ha was made by the Tauranga City Council, to allow for a Waikato University Marine Research and Education Centre to be erected.
Sage says she declined the application for a number of reasons, including there being no assessment of alternative sites and the majority of submitters (58 per cent) opposing the revocation.
Unsurprisingly, council and the University of Waikato are disappointed with Sage’s decision.
Council says local iwi and hapu were consulted before it publicly proposed this site for revocation, and that it undertook “a comprehensive analysis” of other site options.
Those in opposition to the revocation included iwi groups Ngai Tamarawaho and Ngati Pukenga.
Iwi spokesperson Buddy Mikaere says they initially expressed their opposition to the revocation, because they were “fed up”.
“This dates back to when Route K was built straight through our old pa site.
“In compensation we were supposed to get some land for a cultural centre, which Council decided to subdivide instead, and another plot for a health centre, which they said we couldn’t have following a flood assessment.
“They said they’d find us yet another piece of land, and that land was Sulphur Point.
“Before we could get our plans up and running, council told us they were giving the land to Waikato University. That’s when I got really annoyed.
“In our letter to Minister Sage, we said we reject the revocation of Marine Park’s reserve status until the University talked to us, to find a way that both of our aspirations can be looked after.”
Buddy says iwi are not against development in Tauranga.
“We see the sense in having the university facility there and the jobs and the income that will be created from it. It’s fine by us – but why is it always us having to compromise our values?”
Despite the strong initial reactions to the decision, council, Waikato University and iwi are now discussing a way forward.
“We will work with the university on options for how to proceed,” says Tauranga City Council strategy and growth general manager Christine Jones.
“One option would be to seek a new location.”
Buddy says iwi feel positive about the discussions.
“I think the Mayor is aware of our sensitivities now, and I think it’s going to lead to a much better relationship in future.
“As a community we need to take a much wider view on these things. I believe there’s room for all aspirations, we just need to sit down with all parties and have a reasonable conversation where what is best for the whole community drives the conversation.”
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