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Kaumatua urges community restraint in Kawakawa dispute

Media Release:

Wairarapa Kaumatua urges community restraint in Kawakawa Station dispute

Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa kaumatua, Sir Kim Workman, has asked the Wairarapa community to withhold its judgement around the Kawakawa Station dispute, following yesterday’s Stuff article by Andrea Vance, ‘Court orders Chinese owner of Wairarapa farm to settle access row before he sells’. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/112049195/court-orders-chinese-owner-of-wairarapa-farm-to-settle-access-row-before-he-sells

‘In June 2018, the Walkways Access Commission publicised this issue while the dispute negotiation was still in progress. The impact of WAC’s conduct on Mr Wong and his family was incendiary. Xenophobia emerged in full flight. Mr Wong became a foreign demon who was interfering with the rights of good old Kiwis. It adversely affected their walking tour business, and the then managers were openly referred to as ‘chink-lovers’. They resigned, and the backlash contributed to Mr Wong’s decision to sell the farm.’

This latest publicity has the potential to unleash yet another round of racism and hatred. When that happens, it disrupts the peace of our community, and sets neighbour against neighbour. We must avoid that at all costs.

The Commission presents itself in the Stuff interview, as an organisation concerned with ‘talking and listening, working with key stakeholders toward a negotiated outcome’ so that ‘Kiwis’ can access walkways. But key stakeholders don’t include tangata whenua - there is another story that needs to be told.

The proposed walkway follows the Otakaha Stream from the river mouth. There is a plethora of archaeological sites along the proposed route. Near its mouth is a large defensive pa. Several agricultural and village features, including burials, have been identified in the area covering some 2 kilometres from the Otakaha river mouth. The wetlands in the area are ecologically significant, and are part of an agreement with Greater Wellington Regional Council under the Key Native Ecosystem programme.

Under its legislation, the Commission is required to consider information about tikanga Maori (Maori customary values and practices) and Maori relationships with land and waterways. The Walkways Access Code refers in detail to a requirement to consult with tangata whenua, to avoid the desecration of wāhi tapu, and to meet its duty of ‘active protection’ under Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The bald facts are these. The Commission began its negotiation with the Kawakawa Station in May 2016, but failed to consult with local tangata whenua. When local tangata whenua raised the issue with the Commission in November 2018, 2 ½ years later, it acknowledged the omission, and then contended that it had no obligation to consult. It has since failed to do so.

If local tangata whenua had been involved at the outset, the outcome could have been very different. In my personal view, the lack of consultation not only denies natural justice, but renders the earlier negotiation process invalid. It is not a matter that can be satisfactorily resolved through private arbitration.

I am seriously concerned about the adverse consequences of the Commission’s behaviour. It is likely to lead to passive resistance on our part, thus creating further racial hatred and community disharmony. All we ask is to be treated with dignity and respect, and in accordance with the law.

ends


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