Waiheke Marina: A year of construction, occupation and protection

It has been a year since work began on Kennedy Point Marina, a year since Protect Pūtiki was formed and a year since the occupants set up camp on the beach.

Attached to the boardwalk, signs above Pūtiki Bay proclaim “No marina!”.

The occupants are weary of living in the elements, but their feeling is stronger than ever – even as behind them, the foundations of the marina rise from the waves.

It has been a year since the first barge arrived in Pūtiki Bay, marking the start of construction of the marina.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

It has been a year since the first barge arrived in Pūtiki Bay, marking the start of construction of the marina.

the Occupants of Putiki camped on the beach for 365 days, their marae a secure gazebo above the high tide line, and their home a small collection of tents and vans among the trees.

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“It has been an unusual occupation in many ways,” spokeswoman Karla Allies (Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Pukenga ki Manaia) said.

Two occupants held the fort during the lockdown and regrouping has been slow since alert levels dropped, with strict Covid rules remaining limiting numbers at the camp.

In the bay, they reserve a place at Ngāti Pāoa to connect with the island and keep tabs on developers, Allies said.

“We stay just as mana when we practice kaitiakitanga (trusteeship),” the Allies said.

“We have maintained the occupation all year because we have always held rongoawhich is peace.

The occupants of Pūtiki maintained a small presence on the beach for 365 days.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

The occupants of Pūtiki maintained a small presence on the beach for 365 days.

When they pitched tents in March 2021 they didn’t expect to be here a year later – but the Allies said as long as there was marina equipment in the bay they would stay.

“We still don’t think it will be built,” she said.

This optimism is shared by Protect Putikia distinct group of protectors comprising environmentalists, Maori and locals.

But it was hard to hang on to it. Last March, the bay felt safe, said Protect Pūtiki spokeswoman Emily Māia Weiss (Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Whaawhaakia).

Since then there have been violent scuffles, a police operation which saw 80 officers deployed to arrest four guards, trespassing notices, criminal cases and an injunction restraining 32 residents from the construction zone.

If the bay is calmer than it was six months ago, all of those things play a role, Māia Weiss said.

Some community members fear that if they come down to show their support, their names will be added to the list tied to the fence with cable ties.

Signs informing the public of the injunction are attached to the fence around the breakwater.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Signs informing the public of the injunction are attached to the fence around the breakwater.

Protect Pūtiki maintains a presence in the bay with daily observation shifts, where kaitiaki (watchmen) monitor wildlife and construction activities.

For Nââwié Tutugoro​, observations are a way to cultivate a relationship with the berry, seeing, smelling and experiencing both the subtle and the more obvious changes.

“It’s part of my sense of hope,” she said.

For people watching from afar, the sightings are “the heart of what makes us feel like there’s still a chance,” Māia Weiss said.

“It shows that we are not defeated, that we are still fighting,” agreed Māia Week (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tūhoe).

Observers from Protect Pūtiki regularly visit the bay to document construction and its effects on wildlife.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Observers from Protect Pūtiki regularly visit the bay to document construction and its effects on wildlife.

Week is one of the regular spotters, walking along the breakwater and watching for signs of kororā, little blue penguins and other seabirds. The breakwater also provides a full view of the bay for observers to film and photograph construction work.

Growing up Maori in Waiheke, it was difficult to find a cultural connection in a predominantly Pākeha community, Week said.

Over the past year, there has been a growing interest in the cultural history of the island as well as a better understanding of environmental issues within the community.

Kathryn Ngapo (Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Awa, Marutūahu) wants to ensure that the cultural significance of Pūtiki is not overlooked. The bay is surrounded by pā sites, which offer a “very good representation of early Maori life,” Ngapo said.

“It is not acceptable to deny the existence of this cultural history. It exists, it’s quite unique to Auckland. It is important in Hauraki because it was such an important place for the Hauraki tribes.

“We shouldn’t build a marina here and mana whenua should be listened to about it.”

Kathryn Ngapo wants to ensure that the cultural significance of Pūtiki is not overlooked.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Kathryn Ngapo wants to ensure that the cultural significance of Pūtiki is not overlooked.

The issue of whenua mana tapping is currently before the Auckland High Court.

The Ngāti Pāoa Board of Trustees filed an application for judicial review of his treatment by the Auckland Council, after the Board of Trustees was excluded from the council’s mana whenua database and was not consulted on marina plans. A decision is expected in the coming weeks after a hearing in February.

Ngāti Pāoa Trust senior board officer Dave Roebeck said consent would never have been given if the law was based on tikanga processes.

“Until Maori processes are upheld and respected under Te Tiriti, you will have these arguments,” he said.

Ngāti Pāoa placed a rāhui over the waters of Waiheke in January 2021, before construction began, but said the developers were “completely flouting it”.

“We are really concerned that what we have the capacity to put in place will not be respected.”

Kennedy Point Marina manager Kitt Littlejohn said the company doesn’t see the marina work as breaking rāhui.

“Ecological studies have indicated that the shell species covered by the rāhui are not present within the marina footprint and therefore will not be impacted during construction.”

Once built, the marina will have no impact on the seabed as dredging is not required and no fishing will be allowed in the marina, he said.

Week said she wanted to see Auckland council’s ‘accountability’.

“They continuously undermined the mana whenua, undermined the tāngata whenua, and prioritized the needs of wealthy developers. And for me to see that happen while they use our kupu and kōwhaiwhai patterns and our culture […] to name their offices or to decorate their building […] it’s fake, it’s disgusting, it’s not the partnership with Te Tiriti.

Māia Week said the mana whenua was undermined throughout the resource consent process.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Māia Week said the mana whenua was undermined throughout the resource consent process.

Auckland Council’s Chief Resource Consent Officer, Ian Smallburn, said the resource consent was granted by Auckland Council and upheld by the Environmental Court.

According to the consent, developers must prepare a Mana Whenua Engagement Plan (MWEP) in collaboration with Ngāti Pāoa iwi, he said.

“The board’s mana whenua register includes both the Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board and the Ngāti Pāoa Iwi Trust since December 2018, and current practice is to advise consent seekers to engage with both parties in regarding requests for consent.

“We value our relationship with mana whenua and always seek to deliver on our commitments to Maori,” he said.

Observers are regularly in the bay to observe the construction work, which has been delayed for six months.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Observers are regularly in the bay to observe the construction work, which has been delayed for six months.

Littlejohn said the company faced a number of challenges in the first year of construction, “including protest activity and unexpected disruptions”. However, the biggest impact has been pandemic delays, he said.

The marina is expected to be completed in May 2023, he said, six months behind schedule.

“Significant progress” has been made with the offsite work, he said.

In the first half of 2022, the quay will be completed and the marina attenuators installed, and in the second half, the internal floating structures of the marina will begin to be installed.

Judicial review has offered a glimmer of hope to protectors of all persuasions.

But even if the lawsuit doesn’t go the way the protectors hope, they’re determined not to give up.

“At any time, this can be stopped,” Week said.

“It’s not over until all those boats are lined up in their berths and the marina is physically there.”

Michael A. Bynum