Maori fight for public access to lake

By Yvonne Tahana

1 comment

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 boatramp at Okawa Bay.

"Ngati Te Takinga in tends 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 say was publicly gifted by Maori in order to be used as a play ground.

Hapu spokesman Whetu Whata did not return 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.

Council 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 was that there is 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 council 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 was supported by an official survey completed before 2006 Treaty legislation that ceded lake beds back to the iwi.

Quite a number of structures - including jetties and ramps - were within the lakebed 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.

"We have already talked with the district council ... Our view is that we support that the gate be opened to allow public access, note the term public access, not just our hapu iwi access.

"We're obliged by our settlement that we cannot deny any reasonable request for the public to access the lake.

"Quite frankly the use of the yacht squadron is only for a certain amount of the year - they pretty much have exclusive use of that ramp since 1974."

Mr Mihinui said that was not fair to the wider community but there was quite a number of structures around the region's lakes which needed to be relooked at in terms of public access.

Club commodore Jackie Holt refused to comment saying it was not the media's business.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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