Mahia man's iwi fights land plan

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2012

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A Mahia man who wants to develop his ancestral land into a subdivision and campground has been accused by his iwi of being culturally insensitive and disrespectful.

George Ormond has applied for resource consent from Wairoa District Council to develop 48 residential sites and a campground on a seven-hectare coastal strip of his farm on the northern side of the Mahia Peninsula.

The council received more than 1000 submissions on the application by closing date this week, nearly all of which opposed the development.

The development covers about a kilometre of coastal land and is in two natural amphitheatres and on a terrace above them. It is alongside six sites already subdivided and sold by Mr Ormond.

The proposed one-hectare campground would be given to Wairoa District Council.

Members of Mr Ormond's iwi, Rongomaiwahine, have submitted that a cultural report provided by Mr Ormond was "offensive, inaccurate and disrespectful" to the history of the iwi. Several of those opposed are Mr Ormond's family members. They say the land is culturally significant and recognised internationally for its natural coastline, and this would be ruined by the development.

They also say Mr Ormond carried out insufficient consultation and that the submission period was unfair as it occurred over Christmas when iwi members were away from home.

Mr Ormond, 42, was born and raised on the land, which he says has been owned by his Pakeha ancestors since 1884. His Maori ancestors occupied the land long before European settlement.

There were middens on the land but no urupa (cemeteries), and he was insulted that anyone would imply he would desecrate sacred land. Areas identified as archaeologically significant would be protected by covenant. He rejected claims that his consultation was flawed.

"I went to consult and I was kicked out of my own marae [Kaiuku]. That was back in July. I would never put myself or my family in that environment again. It was ugly."

He was prepared to meet iwi in the presence of an adjudicator or a Maori Land Court judge, he said.

He branded his opponents jealous and said they "don't have the decency or respect to allow me to tell them what we want to do".

"We're seen as a family who is trying to get ahead. We're trying to better our family and the asset we have up here.

"Everyone has the right to their opinions but we're not going to have anyone bully us into something we believe is wrong."

He said he wanted to develop his 1000ha farm into a dairy farm and was developing the 7ha area to raise capital. He said 22 of the lots were going to immediate family to build on.

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Proceeds from one of the sections would go into a trust account, and the interest would go to five marae for building projects.

He had wanted to give the campground to Rongomaiwahine but the iwi had proved so disorganised he had decided to give it to the council instead.

Council planner Linda Cook said there were more than 1000 submissions, nearly all opposed. The application would be heard by independent commissioners, probably in February or March.

- Wellington

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