Regional | Māori

Whangārei iwi ‘livid’ at decision to build homes on wāhi tapu

Iwi say all bets are off and all avenues of protest are on the table.

Local iwi Ngāti Kahu o Torongare and Te Parawhau says they are horrified at a decision by an independent commissioner to allow the building of a housing project on land the iwi say is sacred.

The application by Ōnoke Heights Ltd is for a 6.8ha proposed Ōnoke Heights development that would run along Dip Rd in Kamo, Whangārei and include 93 houses, a 5m retaining wall, and approximately 134,349 m3 of earthworks.

Taki Kingi of Ngāti Kahu o Torongare says the iwi will do anything and everything to stop the development from going ahead, including occupying the area.

“That’s the whole point of occupation. We aren’t going to come here, put our flag up, and go home. No.”

According to the decision released by independent commissioner Alan Withy, developers have been granted consent ‘for a residential subdivision and associated land use activities consisting of 93 residential lots, with associated servicing, roading and reserve networks. The housing site is located within the general residential zone and requires consent as a discretionary activity.’

Conflict of interest for the council

Withy was appointed as an independent commissioner following the Whangārei District Council expressing support for the subdivision.

Developers have long been interested in the land and, since the 1980s, several of them have sought resource consent to build on the site. Nevertheless, the Environment Court has consistently upheld the concerns of the local Whangārei iwi.

In his decision, Whitby noted that Ōnoke cone was indeed a wāhi tapu but questions remained on whether the area that would be developed should be considered wāhi tapu.

“The commissioner concludes the evidence was very clear and specific concerning the Ōnoke Cone but not persuasive enough to prevent subdivision of this lower land for residential subdivision and occupation. Having considered “other matters” under s104(c) and reviewed the decision-making by reference to Part 2 matters, he concludes consents should be granted to allow development subject to suitable conditions.”

Iwi deny assertions land isn’t wāhi tapu

According to Green MP Huhana Lyndon, the whenua has long been regarded as wāhi tapu.

“Ngāti Kahu o Torongare and Te Parawhau are against this decision to build houses on the whenua at Ōnoke because it is sacred.”

“This place is well known as a place where we buried our dead and prepared our dead for burial over a century ago.”

Te Ao Māori News asked the Whangārei District Council and representatives of Ōnoke Heights Ltd for comment but at deadline had not had a response. The deadline for an appeal is only 15 days from the date of the decision.