National | Environment

Iwi unite against dumping seafloor waste off Great Barrier Island coast

Auckland and Hauraki iwi will join forces this weekend to discuss a company's plans to dump millions of cubic metres of Auckland’s seafloor waste off the coast of Great Barrier Island.

In February 2019, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) granted a marine dumping consent to Coastal Resources Ltd (CRL). The decision was quashed by the High Court last December but is being reconsidered.

Kelly Klink, who leads the group Protect Aotea, is fighting in the High Court on behalf of Ngāti Rehua and Ngāti Wai the decision to dump the seafloor waste off the island

“Great Barrier, like a lot of other places, has a lot of historical sites. So that’s a huge concern to us that they’re going to push that ahead. We’re going to put in an application in to say we’re not happy with that process and we’re going to be in court for a long time to stop any consent applications being fast-tracked,”  Klink says.

Great Barrier Island is the largest and most seaward of the Hauraki Gulf islands in the Auckland region. The island has a range of natural wildlife and indigenous birds, insects, animals and plants, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

Ngāti Rehua has called the island home for at least 1000 years.

“Post-Covid-19 we’ve just decided that we would expand and look at other iwi for Te Moananui-ā-Toi (the Hauraki Gulf). It won’t just be Ngāti Rehua anymore -we’ll be bringing in other iwi.”

People representing Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Ngāti Rongo and Te Kawarau ā Maki will be present at the hui.

“For Māori, it seems to be a clear given that we want to protect the moana. It was sort of evident through Covid-19, the need to have a clean moana so we could fish and gather kaimoana. So we’re having our first hui and we’re getting other iwi on board so that we can just be united as Māori to fight these issues.”

Klink says she has put in submissions against Ports of Auckland to stop the dredging and dumping.

“What I tried to explain to Auckland Council is the water is not stagnant. It doesn’t just sit there, it flows, so everyone is going to be impacted, all iwi. The moana is what binds us. It binds iwi together and for us it’s about working together.”

She also asked Auckland Council if there was going to be a Māori on the decision-making committee.

“And there isn’t. So I said to them, ‘How are they going to understand mātauranga Māori and how are they going to understand our whakapapa to the moana’ and so they said ‘Oh Kelly, you’re going to have to explain it to them.”

Klink hopes that more iwi in the rohe will come on board.