Plan protects island lifestyle

By John Cousins


A push for new and affordable housing is a priority for Matakana Island to accommodate Maori wanting to move back to the island.

The island's recently completed master plan sets out a vision of what tangata whenua would like to achieve for Matakana, while putting constraints on development to preserve its unique lifestyle. It said the median household income for islanders was more than one-third lower than Tauranga and Western Bay households.

"However it is apparent that while the resident tangata whenua might be deprived of economic opportunities, they are rich in culture."

The plan, prepared by the Western Bay District Council in conjunction with the island's hapu and business interests, said 132 of Matakana's 244 residents spoke te reo Maori.

And although current housing on farmland was modest and fitted the island environs, new and affordable housing was a priority. The plan noted the desire of hapu members living on the mainland to move back to the island."

Tangata whenua wanted to explore sustainable development opportunities to create the jobs to bring people back to Matakana. And although the forested "sand barrier" side of Matakana was privately owned, the plan noted that a sense of duty and obligation remained for tangata whenua to exercise guardianship over this land.

"The challenge for the island is to balance the proprietary and legal rights of private land owners with the cultural values of tangata whenua."

The plan said the island's way of life was typified by its isolation, rural character and absence of large residential, commercial or tourist developments. This gave rise to the relaxed and highly self-sufficient lifestyles of islanders. A leading concern of islanders was the unknown impact that future development of the forested land would have on the social fabric of the island, specifically the risk of creating class distinctions.

The council will develop criteria to manage the scale and nature of land use and subdivision to ensure the farmland retained a rural feel, and buildings on the forested side of Matakana blended with the landscape. Criteria will also ensure that future development on the forested sand barrier did not overwhelm the social cohesiveness of the island.

Buildings on the farmed and forested sides of Matakana must be set back from the water's edge, with buffer strips to protect significant ecological areas. Changes will be considered to manage subdivision by setting maximum densities instead of minimum lot sizes. Development should also not have any flow-on effects for housing affordability such as increasing land values.

Future business opportunities for Matakana Island

  • Aquaculture

  • High value niche market garden crops

  • Diversifying plantation forestry into trees for specialist markets

  • Planting manuka as a source of pollen for honey production

  • Homestays and small-scale eco-tourism

  • Horseriding, cycling, wildlife watching, heritage and cultural tours.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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