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Open Letter Track Back Or Back Track


E te hoa aroha / To my dear friend Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson,

It’s been 15 months since we last and celebrated many things between your whānau and Ngāti Kahungunu at Craggy Range during the Taniwha –Dragon Economic Summit and almost 6 months since we last spoke together. Alas, things have gone downhill rapidly since then with the advent of the ill-conceived track placement that has split a nationally and internationally recognised iconic landscape, a cultural heritage and taonga feature, a community known for its unity amid diversity and a superb image for the Craggy Range brand itself.

We talked about this eternal image at the opening in 1997 which included Sir Edmund Hillary, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Tim Finn. Your father Terry talked about a 1000-year future legacy after he asked me how long our people had been here whereby I responded with 1000-year heritage. A plaque was unveiled by Sir Edmund to dedicate the event who on reading the inscription quickly pointed out that his own name should go second to Ngāti Kahungunu as “they have been here much longer than me”. His request was duly obliged by your people. We even had a part in the resource management process around the underground streams and the subsequent lake and the possible impacts on the Tukituki river.

We have shared convivial times over the last 20 years with your parents and others, but that relationship has now been put to a severe test. The track has not only put a scar on our maunga but has driven a chasm in our community that has brought the worst of racist and class comments to the fore. And my people are the targets and dartboards of this racist one-way tirade emanating from Havelock North. Yet we were never part of any of it as you know. I’ve been asked to swallow my pride and let things go, but I have 1000 years of heritage to defend and this can’t be washed away by the very recent tsunami of residents with no sense of history.

Some of my best and deepest friends are from Havelock North as were those of my parents, as are my children and their children and so on throughout the numerous whānau from all marae of Heretaunga. This is the ugliest debate I’ve been involved in locally.

A hundred horsemen on mountain bikes are threatening to swoop down Te Mata like a wolf on the fold, waving hundreds of thousands of legal dollars at us so that we should quiver in fear and hide, never to be seen again. But Ngāti Kahungunu don’t back down and this has been proven over many centuries. In the last 20 years in order to protect our rights we have been to the Privy Council 3 times and won, to the United Nations in Geneva and won, to the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Environment Court, the Supreme Court and won. I’ve been at all those court sittings. We are battle scarred and battle hard.

Your barrister and professional director were naïve in trying to frighten us with legal action. Your manager is caught in the headlights and doesn’t know his way forward but again he treats us like dumb savages from the wopwops. Again we are not intimidated by this behaviour or that of the ‘Charge of the Lycra Brigade’ who have resorted to personal attacks on our people who don’t have the luxury of mountain bikes mounted on the latest SUV’s.

Finally, it was agreed back on the 23rd of December 2017 that the track would be remediated as best as possible but not to its pre-track INTEGRITY. It was agreed again at a meeting in January hosted by Her Worship the Mayor Sandra Hazelhurst. However, last week we got a ‘take or leave it’ proposal from your manager, director and barrister that was underwhelming and relegated your previous promise as disingenuous.

The capacity to mitigate this issue must come from the top. It’s not about just the track anymore, because the polarisation it has caused is strumming the strings of racial tension of lynch mob potential, watered and fed by your director, barrister and manager whose integrity I have lost faith in. If you leave it to your manager, barrister and director to manage then I respectively request that the name ‘Ngāti Kahungunu’ be melted or removed from the commemorative opening plaque for I do not wish the gall and bile that has built up within the Iwi to taint the fabulous wines and food you serve from your facility.

To hoa wehe / Your estranged friend
Ngahiwi Tomoana

This open letter was sent on behalf of Ngahiwi Tomoana, Chairman, Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.

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