Editorial, July 18: Marina fighters: just give it up
The latest efforts to stop the building of a marina at Whangamata is the last gasp of a protest that should have realised the battle was lost long ago.
Local iwi, with the support of surfers, have occupied the site where the Whangamata Marina Society has strived for 15 years to build the berthing facility that is the one missing piece from the peninsular's long-established holiday hub.
But protesters continue to say the proposed 200-berth marina in the Moanaanuanu Estuary will have a detrimental effect on native wildlife, the town's aesthetics, and the surf-break.
They are entitled to their opinions but the debate now is not whether the Whangamata marina is a good or bad idea. Numerous consent hearings and visits to the Environment Court have already established that there are no major ill effects likely that prevent it being built.
Opponents like Ngati Kupenga Hako and the Surfbreak Protection Society have had their say. They have been listened to and cannot contend after various forums costing many dollars over several years that they have not. A land occupation should not change this.
The timing of the find of an endangered lizard, the moko skink, near the marina site when all other legal avenues have been exhausted can only be viewed with scepticism. It gave opponents a last ditch excuse to occupy the site.
It's not the first time a rare species has been used as an excuse to halt a development. In 2005, Solid Energy's plans for coal mining on the west coast of the South Island were thrown into doubt by the discovery of a rare giant snail. Environmentalists leapt on the chance to halt the project but the High Court overturned their application to cease the mining plans and a viable population of snails have since been relocated.
Unlike the giant snail the moko skink is not critically endangered and is only classed as "sparse". The marina society has been aware of the skinks for months and has already moved some to a holding area over the ranges at Hikutaia.
The skinks should not be bulldozed but a carefully planned programme and construction can ensure they survive and the marina is built.
Marina opponents have called on Environment Minister Trevor Mallard and Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick to scrutinise the marina's consent process and say where they stand on the council providing leased land for the development.
Both calls are sour grapes.
Worryingly, the ministers have said nothing, meaning they may be looking at interfering.
They should remember the ministerial backflip when David Benson-Pope gave the marina the green light last year after Chris Carter had previously quashed it despite Environment Court approval in 2006.
Opponents have had their chances. They should pack up their tents and placards and go home.