Protestors halt planes at Raglan Airport

By Peata Melbourne of Te Ao Māori News

It’s been unusually quiet at the Raglan airfield these Christmas holidays according to local resident Ra Puriri. On Boxing Day most years the airfield will have up to a dozen planes land in a day. But this year flights to Raglan seemed to have reduced to just 1 a day.

“Sound of silence – this is the quietest it’s been for 50 years in the holidays. So beautiful to be here and have no planes,” says Puriri.

A newly erected one-kilometre long barrier at the Raglan airfield has been the centre of protests lead by Puriri over the last few months. Locals now have to access the beach via a trail at each end of the airfield. It’s the inconvenience of no longer being able to walk across the airfield that has provoked the revolt by some local residents.

“It makes it even more agregious if you know the history, and the land and know what Eva Rickard did.”

Tuaiwa Hautai ‘Eva’ Rickard led protests against the Raglan golf course in the 1970s that was built on Māori-owned land known as Te Kōpua near the aerodrome strip, winning the cause years later. The golf course then became a farm, and a marae was built on the land.

The airstrip itself also sits on Māori-owned land and the new barrier was built by the Waikato District Council following a review of 18 different airfields. The council says the barrier was erected at Raglan to improve safety precautions. While there’s been no incidents at the airfield in its 80 year history, there have been some near misses.

The barrier was completed two weeks ago with the blessings of the landowners.

“Discussions between hapū and Waikato District Council are ongoing, these are progressing positively and respectfully,” says Rik Samuels, spokesperson for Ngāti Māhanga.

The land where the aerodrome lies is known as Papahua and is sectioned into three parts known as Papahua 1, 2, and 3.  Papahua 1 - consists of 10 acres and is located at the western end of the airfield adjoining the Te Kopua block. The sole interest to Papahua 1 is held by Amiria Mahikai-Nutana and her descendants.

Ngāti Māhanga holds the tribal interest to Papahua 2 and Papahua 3. The iwi says its interest has never been extinguished despite rhetoric to the contrary.

“We ask that Māori with no tūpuna interests to the Raglan airfield stop protesting because you have no rights in the land,” says Samuels.

“The land is a working airfield and we, the Treaty claimants, support the health and safety measures that are currently in place. Putting your lives and the lives of others at risk on the airfield places the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of those of us with legitimate interests in this land.”

Local iwi are currently working with the Crown to settle treaty claims that includes returning a portion of the aerodrome land.