A Lake Rotoiti hapu will blockade a boat ramp tomorrow to force public access to a private boat ramp which is built on the Maori-owned lake bed.

The Ngati Pikiao Environmental Society has written to the Rotorua District Council, and Te Arawa Lakes Trust, which owns the bed on behalf of the wider iwi, saying one of its hapu, Ngati Te Takinga, will blockade The Bay Of Plenty Trailer Yacht Squadron's privately owned boat ramp at Okawa Bay.

"Ngati Te Takinga intends to maintain this blockade until the gate is removed to allow for the use and enjoyment of this boat ramp by the general public," the letter says.

The boat ramp is accessed through a Rotorua District Council reserve which the Lakes Trust says was publicly gifted by Maori in order to be used as a playground.


Hapu spokesman Whetu Whata did not return Herald calls, however, the letter says exclusive use granted by the council to the squadron has meant the public have been denied the opportunity to launch boats from the reserve for decades.

RDC Parks and Recreation manager Garry Page said the ramp was built by the club in 1974 on land outside of the reserve's title. A gate was put across it to control access for safety reasons, the prime one being a ski lane close to the bay. "Potentially, fatalities could result," he said.

He hoped that the council, regional council Environment Bay of Plenty, hapu and the Lakes Trust and club could sit down to deal with the issue, despite an "ultimatum" being delivered last week that the gate needed to open. The RDC was already reviewing structures on reserves and the matter could be dealt with then.

The squadron had cleared out much of the reserve itself and built and donated public toilets on the reserve, Mr Page said.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust chief executive Roku Mihinui said the ramp was on trust land, a position which is supported by an official survey completed before 2006 Treaty legislation that ceded lake beds back to the iwi.

Quite a number of structures - jetties, ramps etc - were within the lake bed boundary but the iwi had set a long-term goal of 2015 to deal with the issue. This request by the Te Arawa hapu had pushed the issue up the agenda.

Club commodore Jackie Holt refused to comment.