Brian Rudman: Challenge to adidas - show a bit more respect

It comes as no surprise that multinational sporting conglomerate adidas has not made up its mind whether to report last week's trashing of its $15,000 Haka Man statue on Watchman Island to the police.

If the football jersey-makers are wise, they will quietly pack up the pieces and walk away.

After all, what would they say? "Please Mr Policeman, some nasty Maori sailed out to a customary-owned Maori island and knocked down a piece of cheap advertising we erected in the dead of night without permission from anyone"?

My only regret about the raid by Pita Turei and his Nga Hunga Tiaki o Tamaki henchmen is their mixed motives.

On the one hand, Mr Turei says it is his group's job to protect all ancestral sites and they did not want heritage sites becoming ringed with advertising. That I can wholeheartedly agree with. But then comes his annoyance at adidas not offering cash. "Here's a multinational which exploits cheap Asian labour to sell products to the rich Western world. It could afford to make a contribution."

How can he have it both ways? Surely a man who describes himself as a Treaty of Waitangi researcher appreciates the dangers of visitors offering blankets and muskets while seeking the use of one's land?

As for adidas, it seems to have breezed into Auckland like the archetypical ugly multinational in a Third World country.

Without getting the permission of either the landowner or the regulatory authority, the Auckland City Council, adidas plonked its giant Haka Man on a piece of prime open space guaranteed to catch the eye of Harbour Bridge commuters.

Admittedly, finding the owner would have been difficult, and I'll come back to that in a minute. But the regulatory issue is not.

Adidas marketing manager Craig Waugh says he consulted Ngati Whatua, the Department of Conservation, Ports of Auckland and Auckland City Council. If so, then surely he must have discovered that, among other things, Watchman Island, which is just off Herne Bay, is zoned Open Space 2 and, as such, a resource consent is required for any building or structure erected on it.

Brooke Dales, council team leader (resource consents), says neither he nor his staff are aware of a consent application being made before the adidas structure went up.

Because of its highly visible nature, the council may also have required the resource consent application to have been publicly notified. It took me only a couple of phone calls to get to the bottom of all that. As for the ownership question, that's a fascinating diversion.

Thanks to research that Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee did for his MSc thesis, that was easy to sort out too.

Watchman Island and many other islets in the Hauraki Gulf "are not formally owned in a property title sense. For nearly 150 years they have existed in a legal limbo as 'uninvestigated', which normally presupposes Maori customary land."

Mr Lee calls them a "tiny remnant of pre-European New Zealand, tiny crumbs left over and forgotten after extinguishment of aboriginal communal ownership and the transformation of the land into individual and Crown property titles".

Land Information New Zealand says to determine actual ownership would require a hearing in the Maori Land Court. One suspects that would take somewhat longer than a resource consent from Auckland City. Even a publicly notified one.

But who would bother when about the only thing the island is big enough for is to accommodate the odd sign or, better, remain a pleasant unspoilt natural feature to enjoy when walking the foreshore, sailing the harbour or crossing the bridge.

Mr Waugh is pondering whether to moan to the police, rebuild it, or pack his toy up and take it away.

It's a no brainer really. The only option is to ship it out. While they're at it, adidas could apologise for its arrogance, and commit to showing more respect for our rules, and our landscape values, in future.

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