Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Maori trust threatens blockade of Hole in the Rock

Motu Kokako Ahu Whenua Trust says it feels ripped off by tour operators.
Motu Kokako Ahu Whenua Trust says it feels ripped off by tour operators.

A blockade at the entrance to Hole in the Rock is being considered as part of a long-running row over money and mana between tourism operators and the Maori owners of the tourist mecca.

The local Maori trust which owns Motu Kokako, the island known for the Hole in the Rock, has started a direct action campaign after feeling ripped off that boat operators take thousands of tourists through the scenic hole without at least making a token payment to them.

Motu Kokako Ahu Whenua Trust, which has 612 members, is also concerned that the operators aren't telling tourists the correct narrative history of the island, which has great cultural significance to Ngapuhi.

Yesterday, trust members handed out leaflets on Paihia wharf and tried to discourage potential customers from taking the world-renowned trip.

They have vowed to ramp up their protest activities and are considering a judicial review at the High Court.

More numbers will descend on the wharf in the coming days.

If the three tour companies - Fullers, Explore NZ and Mack Attack - do not enter into new negotiations with the trust, chairman Rau Hoskins said they would consider a blockade of the hole's entrance.

"It will be about us making it very clear to both the operator and the tourist that there is a significant issue here and we feel that our mana is being trampled on by these operators," Mr Hoskins said.

The row first erupted in 1987 when Fullers raised a flag on the Maori freehold island Motu Kokako, also known as Piercy Island.

The next year, the tour operator agreed to pay a portion of each fare to the trust. When another tour operator started a similar cruise, the trust and Fullers took the firm to court, alleging trespass.

The High Court threw out the case in 1992, ruling that access to the open sea could not be impeded under maritime law. Fullers then stopped paying.

Mack Attack and Explore NZ did not respond to APNZ queries.

Fullers Greatsights general manager Charles Parker refused to comment on the threat of a blockade, but did say: "Fullers GreatSights has, in good faith, entered into numerous discussions with the trust over the past five years.

"This culminated in an offer to work with the trust to ensure their mana on the island is properly recognised by Fullers GreatSights. Fullers GreatSights has never received a response to that offer."

- NZ Herald

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