Whangamata fury over marina

By Juliet zRowan, Juliet Rowan

At the Whangamata Ocean Sports Club yesterday, a steady stream of people arrived to sign a petition against the likely scrapping of the $10 million marina project.

But across town, in the backyard of local surfing identity Paul Shanks, surfers were rejoicing.

Yesterday the Herald revealed that the project looked set to be vetoed by Conservation Minister Chris Carter despite earlier approval by the Environment Court.

The announcement was scheduled for today but late yesterday Mr Carter indicated he had yet to make a decision and delayed it until Tuesday.

A spokesman for the minister said Mr Carter would not comment until after the announcement, and would not reveal the specifics of the concerns.

The marina society, which has fought a 14-year legal battle for consents to build the 200-berth marina, has said it received "inside information" that the project had been turned down.

Fay Lowe, who has lived in Whangamata since 1969, was among those signing the petition at the Ocean Sports Club.

She said she was "furious" at the prospect of the project being scrapped.

"Whangamata will turn over on its back like Whitianga did before the marina came," she said.

Bryn Jensen, owner of a joinery business, said the marina was needed for the town's economic development and people were moving away because it had not been built.

"Quite a few of those people have made it clear they'll move back for the marina," the 28-year-old said.

Although a surfer, Mr Jensen did not share the concerns of others in the boarding community who say dredging for the marina could cause the Whangamata bar to erode and ruin the beach's famous left-hand break. "It seems mostly speculatory," he said.

Others signing the petition believed dredging would help restore the harbour, which they said was filled with silt and mangroves and was in danger of disappearing.

But Whangamata Boardriders Association president Paul Shanks, who made extensive submissions against the marina in the consent process and was one of several people who addressed Mr Carter when he visited the town to discuss the marina, said he would be elated if the minister had listened to concerns about the bar and harbour environment. "He could've done a Pontius Pilate but instead he's shown the skills of Solomon," he said.

"The marina's a bad idea, no matter how much money the marina society spends on that bad idea."

Fellow surfer John Quellin said surfers would continue their fight against the marina "on a daily basis" if the project was approved.

Iwi opposition to the marina also remained strong.

"It allows the foreshore to be cut up into 200 tradeable commodities," said Grant McIntosh, former secretary of the Whangamata Maori Committee.

But, on the other side, the marina society was also vowing to keep up its fight. Chairman Mick Kelly said the society, which has spent more than $1 million on the legal battle, would seek a judicial review if Mr Carter vetoed the project.

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