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Te Rerenga Wairua Road Closure

Initially I was supportive of concerns about the public road closure on the northern most stretch of State Highway One, until I heard the other side of the story.

I attended the Ngati Kuri’s opening of the gates ceremony on Friday. I got there two hours early so I had plenty of time to listen to locals about why the road had been closed. During level 4 and 3, no track maintenance or facilities cleaning had been done by the Department of Conservation for obvious reasons. Level 2 allowed them to catch up on this work before the site was to be reopened the public. A burial ground in the sand dunes had been disturbed during a storm and human remains needed reinterred appropriately. Further spiritual/cultural practices of significance to Ngati Kuri also needed to be completed before the area was reopened.

There is only one road into this area through Ngati Kuri private land. The road was put through by the government without the landowners consent many years ago. The gate that was closed is the last gate on that stretch. In the 5 kms between the gate and the cape there are no shops, businesses, homes etc. The gate was closed in consultation with the local community, New Zealand Land Transport Authority and the Police. Yes some tourist operators may have been put out having to wait two more weeks. Yes, tourists who travelled north hoping to see the Cape in that time would have been disappointed. Many tourists were there on Friday waiting with anticipation and were welcomed by the locals. I heard about the care and respect that the locals afforded tourists who were in their region during lockdown.

The tension and negativity that arose on account that the gate was not opened until Friday was completely unnecessary. On the other end of the island our national museum Te Papa was also closed until Friday. It is a public place. But I did not see MPs challenging the security at their door last week and posting it on facebook. What was missing in some quarters was respect. Respect for Ngati Kuri, the traditional authority of Te Rerenga Wairua and respect for the rule of law. There is a process for closing a public road and by not duly authorising Ngati Kuri they were exposed to unfair media attack for political purposes. We do not need this kind of polarising approach to issues in Northland. We need solution finders.

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