Maori objections scupper artificial lake plans

DUBBY HENRY
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
Richard Archer
DUBBY HENRY / Fairfax NZ

LAKE PLANS: Richard Archer wants a tidal gate at the Papakura causeway.

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Objections from Maori have again scuppered plans to create an artificial lake in the Pahurehure Inlet by installing tidal gates under the southern motorway.

The Pahurehure Inlet Protection Society wants to revive the plan to install gates that would close up to 26 weekends each year.

They would create a temporary lake to be used for sailing, kayaking and waka ama events.

A tidal gate was planned for when the motorway was built in 1964 but was not included in the original contract.

The concept has been popular with residents but was rejected in an Environment Court decision in 2004 when Ngati Tamaoho representatives appealed against the Papakura District Council's plan.

The inlet was still clogged with mangroves at the time.

Former Ngati Tamaoho Trust chairman Ted Ngataki, who lives on the inlet, told the Environment Court hearing the harbour held spiritual value for tangata whenua and gates would stop the tide's natural flow and cause pollution and sediment to build up.

The idea was further quashed by an engineering study that put the cost of the gates at $7 million.

But last year an engineer approached society chairman Richard Archer with a new proposal for an unmechanised tidal gate costing under $1m.

''That really was the trigger for [the society] to say, 'OK, at one point for the community there was a desire to have a tide gate - let's go and see if it's still there','' Archer said.

His first step was to approach Ngati Tamaoho with the proposal but after several months of deliberation the iwi told him it still would not support tidal gates.

Current Ngati Tamaoho Trust chairman Dennis Kirkwood said the iwi's position had not changed even though mangroves had since been removed.

''Any restriction on the tide and its ability to do its job cannot have a positive impact on the environment as far as we're concerned.

''We'll be creating a mini environmental disaster there [with water] held behind the gates, only to flush it out in a few days.
 
''What's going to happen to the wider harbour is our concern too. Who can tell us what's going to happen?''

Restraining the tide would create an ''unnatural environment'' for the fish and crabs that live in the harbour and push away the many species of wading birds that live there.

''Our bad land-use practices contributed to the siltation of the place and the build-up of the mangroves,'' he said.

''The damage has been done a long, long time ago and we have this mentality that we can fix it. We basically want to have our cake and eat it too.''

Archer said he still hoped to negotiate with Ngati Tamaoho but without its support he was reluctant to move the project forward.

''The iwi is a significant community member and because they already raised an objection we need their support,'' he said.

''I'm trying to respect their point of view. I find it hard to understand.

''We're here to do what the community wants. If there's no desire at one point or another, that's fine, we'll move on. There are other things we can focus our efforts on. But this seems to be one that could have a lot of benefits for a lot of people - so we'll just see how it plays out.''

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