Iwi gets behind $200m roading project despite ongoing internal division

A visual representation of the proposed upgrade at Mt Messenger along State Highway 3 in Taranaki. (File Photo)

A visual representation of the proposed upgrade at Mt Messenger along State Highway 3 in Taranaki. (File Photo)

A Taranaki iwi has given its support to a $200 million roading upgrade, but not all its members are happy.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Tama was once neutral about its view of New Zealand Transport Agency's (NZTA) plans to upgrade State Highway 3 at Mt Messenger, but its had a change of heart and given the project the green light.

The proposed bypass cuts through land known as Parininihi, which is owned by Ngāti Tama. The whenua (land) had been confiscated by the Crown but later returned as part of its 2003 Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

But the "fractured" relationships within the north Taranaki iwi were once again laid bare at a resource consent hearing connected to the proposal on Thursday.

Members of Te Korowai Tiaki o te Hauāuru provided evidence to independent commissioner Stephen Daysh, which voiced their opposition to the work along with their concern about being left out of the consultation process.

* Proposed Mt Messenger bypass route has support of trucking companies
The $200m State Highway upgrade that split an iwi
* Iwi close to agreement on cash and compo package connected to $200m roading project

The rūnanga is the post-settlement governance entity for Ngāti Tama and is considered to be its mandated voice in terms of consultation involving major developments.

But Rob Enright, counsel for Te Korowai, questioned NZTA's reliance on getting support for the project from the rūnanga, at the expense of other affected Māori.

He said Te Korowai had a membership of 500 people, who all had whakapapa to Ngāti Tama. 

"The key point I make here is that hapū have a right to be heard and tangata whenua have a right to be heard," he said.

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"The sign-off from the iwi authority is not enough."

Bill White, a Te Korowai member, slammed NZTA's lack of consultation with the group. 

He said as the proposal stood, there was a risk the land that had been returned to it would be lost, despite any compensation provided.

As part of Ngāti Tama's negotiations with NZTA an agreement is on the table, which includes a land swap involving a 120 hectare section, a cash payment and environmental mitigation measures.

Bill White said Ngāti Tama had already lost too much through historical land confiscation.

"The Crown stole the Rolls Royce and gave back the tow bar," he said.

Te Korowai chairman Amos White endorsed what his brother Bill had said about the lack of contact from NZTA.

"We expected a wider and more open consultation process with hapū and iwi from our treaty partners."

Planner Greg Carlyon, who provided expert evidence for Te Korowai, said there was a growing trend that consultation involved moving beyond just talking to one group.

In his questioning of Carlyon, Daysh described the relationships within Ngāti Tama as "fractured" and pointed out the difficulties this could have presented to NZTA.

However, Daysh pointed out there was enough time for further discussion between the rūnanga and Te Korowai to take place, something he encouraged them to do.

The resource consent hearing has now been adjourned until October 8.

 - Stuff

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