Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

'Lack of support' for refuse protest

Members of a Ngapuna hapu protesting the building of a refuse transfer station near sacred sites say they are disappointed by a lack of support from a Te Arawa committee set up to protect the rights of local Maori.

But the committee's chairman, Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters, says that as the matter is before the Environment Court the committee can't take sides.

In October, Ngapuna resident John Tapiata and members of Te Arawa hapu Ngati Hinemihi lodged an appeal with the Environment Court against the decision to allow the building of a refuse transfer station on the corner of Te Ngae Rd and Hamiora Pl.

Previously, resource consent was granted to Transpacific Industries Group New Zealand to build a refuse transfer station on the site of the old Challenge petrol station.

Transpacific said the transfer station would be used for commercial and industrial waste and construction and demolition waste, as well as some kerbside and green waste.

The transfer station would operate seven days a week.

Mr Tapiata said an appeal was lodged because the hapu felt proper notification was not given to all affected parties and a cultural impact assessment was not carried out by either the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the Rotorua District Council, or Transpacific. He said he wanted the Environment Court to reassess or reverse the decision to protect valuable taonga (treasures) and wahi tapu (sacred places) belonging to the hapu. The proposed transfer station is within 200m of the hapu's ngawha (mineral baths), urupa (cemetery) and marae.

Last week, Mr Tapiata made a presentation to the Rotorua District Council's Te Arawa Standing Committee telling them of his concerns and was disappointed with the decision not to do anything about it.

"I asked if they would support the appeal that seeks to preserve Te Arawa taonga and wahi tapu and assist in developing ways to improve the council's internal systems so culturally significant issues are considered properly."

He said numerous Te Arawa people, including kaumatua, kuia, golfers, rugby players, government, tourism and health employees had also signed a petition objecting to the transfer station on the grounds it was culturally insensitive to have rubbish managed next to important taonga and wahi tapu.

"I find it quite disheartening how a committee with such talent, experience and knowledge, that was specifically established to provide a Te Arawa perspective on all matters that affect Maori, is not able to support this kaupapa [subject]."

However, Mr Tapiata said mediation between the two groups was under way. Mr Winters said Mr Tapiata was invited to bring the committee up to speed with developments and that was all they could do. "It is now up to the Environment Court to decide what happens next."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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