A sight they didn't expect to see: 200 angry Waiheke Island residents block double-decker bus full of tourists

There were plenty of signs and banners at the march telling how residents feel about the tourist buses.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

There were plenty of signs and banners at the march telling how residents feel about the tourist buses.

Tourists on a double-decker sightseeing bus around Auckland's Waiheke Island were treated to a sight they didn't expect when their trip was slowed down by protesters.

Around 200 Waiheke residents of all ages, carrying banners and placards, walked chanting in front of the bus from Fullers' Matiatia ferry terminal to Oneroa town.

The stroll in front of one of Fullers' Hop On, Hop Off double-deckers, at around 11.45am on April 9, was to protest their anger about the vehicles.

Tourists board the Explorer Hop On, Hop Off double-decker.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Tourists board the Explorer Hop On, Hop Off double-decker.

Residents say it was introduced without consultation and the vehicles are too large for the island's narrow and winding roads.

READ MORE:
*  Waiheke Island group threatens civil disobedience
*  Waiheke Island takes a stand over double-deckers

 
One man shows how he feels about the tourist buses.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

One man shows how he feels about the tourist buses.

Trees have also been pruned at ratepayers' expense to enable the double-deckers to operate - another bone of contention among residents.

During the past few weeks, there have been reports of the double-deckers having to drive over the central line to negotiate the roads and, in one case, a near accident when a double-decker almost toppled over in Carsons Rd, Rocky Bay.

The Waiheke Local Board has already said the vehicles should go.

Marchers set off in front of the double-decker.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Marchers set off in front of the double-decker.

"We don't want them here," board chairman Paul Walden said.

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The protest gathering at Matiatia, organised by residents Stephanie Honeychurch and Susi Newborn, a former Rainbow Warrior activist, started with speeches from among the marchers.

Many referred to the tourist buses as profit-driven, saying there was a lack of regard for Waiheke's needs and character.

Susi Newborn hands out signs for marchers to put in their windows when they get home.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Susi Newborn hands out signs for marchers to put in their windows when they get home.

"Waiheke has become a world famous destination because it is unique and beautiful," Honeychurch said.

"Visitors are the life force of the island's economy and its future.

"In order to secure the success of our local economy, we must not destroy the very thing visitors come here to experience.

"We must not let a transport monopoly ruin the island's wairua for profit that goes off the island."

Fullers chief Doug Hudson had been invited to the march but declined, promising to meet with Newborn and Honeychurch over coming days.

The company has already taken out an ad saying the tourist bus services will stop on May 3 for the low-season.

It further stated that Fullers would look into possible changes to mitigate and minimise concerns over the next high-season.

But protesters have not been impressed. 

At the march, resident Claude Lewenz drew a distinction between tourists and visitors.

He said a study had shown that visitors spent 10 times more than tourists.

"And Waiheke has been a visitor destination for years," he said.

Waiheke Local Board chairman Paul Walden spoke about how the service had been able to get the go-ahead because central government wanted to enable mass tourism.

And board member Shirin Brown sent a message to the protesters, which was read out by Newborn.

It said double-deckers "screamed" mass tourism and did not encourage people to get off the beaten track.

"We are cultivating a kind of tourism that says, 'shoot through the island, get pissed, and bugger off'."

The speakers included a passionate appeal from Waiheke Piritahi Marae committee member Huhana Davis who said the protest was about the community working to fight for the island's treasures.

It was followed by a haka among the protesters led by marae member Maurice Heta.

The peaceful protest finished in Oneroa, where a spoof on the Kardashian Pepsi ad was staged before the crowd dispersed for a picnic on the beach.

 - Stuff

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