Traffic on State Highway 2 will come to standstill for the second time in a week when hundreds of protesters march across Wairoa Bridge tomorrow in a bid to stop the Government signing a deal that gives Hauraki Maori rights over Tauranga Harbour.
Dressed in full regalia from the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864, the mostly Maori protesters will take part in a hikoi in which the bridge will be ceremonially adorned in foliage.
It marks the third and last protest action by the Mana Moana campaign that began with waka blocking the Tauranga entrance to the harbour and continued last Sunday when about 400 people marched from Katikati's Uretara Domain into the town centre.
"We are anticipating huge numbers," Hikoi organiser Meremaihi Aloua said.
She said the police and councils were cooperating with the plans and traffic would be stopped for the time it took protesters to walk on to the bridge from Te Puna Station Rd, cross the bridge and then depart SH2 a short distance further on down Taniwha Place.
"We are inviting everyone, not just tangata whenua. The future of the harbour is everyone's future."
The highway was expected to be blocked to traffic again when everyone walked up to the Wairoa Marae for kai after a massed haka and speeches.
Paul Majurey, the chairman of Hauraki's collective of 12 iwi, said the Waitangi Tribunal's 2004 Tauranga Moana report confirmed the centuries-old customary interests of Pare Hauraki in the Tauranga Harbour catchment area.
"Following this report, Treaty redress was negotiated and agreed between us."
He said it was strange how Tauranga iwi had spent years negotiating and reaching Treaty agreements with people who they now accused of being outsiders and foreigners.
The accusation that Hauraki iwi were trying to take over Tauranga Harbour referred to the co-governance entity proposed for the harbour and its catchments in which the collective had one seat, Tauranga Moana iwi four seats and the Crown five seats.
Mr Majurey said they were there because of their customary interests.
"Pare Hauraki are the target of a Tauranga iwi PR campaign against our Treaty settlements. They have incited ill-temper which could escalate if left unchecked."
Tauranga's Ngai Te Rangi Iwi chairman Charlie Tawhiao rejected the accusation that Tauranga Moana iwi were reneging on a deal.
He said what started out as sharing the first right of refusal to a handful of Crown-owned properties had ended as a threat to the cultural identity of Tauranga iwi.
Mr Tawhiao explained that customary interests were not the same as customary rights.
"We all have customary interests all over the place. Interests are something we all have because of our shared history."
But he claimed customary interests had been inflated and distorted by Pare Hauraki to become customary rights.
"Customary rights are much more powerful than customary interests."
Mr Tawhiao said rights applied to an iwi's heartland but interests applied to any interest. For instance, Ngai Te Rangi's tipuna (ancestors) lived just north of Gisborne.
"We have a customary interest but we would never presume to have customary rights."
He proposed that Pare Hauraki parked the redress applying to Tauranga Harbour and continued with the rest of its Deed of Settlement. They could not have that conversation as long as the threat of the imminent signing of Pare Hauraki's Deed of Settlement remained in place.
In an earlier statement, Mr Tawhiao said Ngai Te Rangi had been fighting the Crown's attempts to change a centuries-old tribal structure in Tauranga.
"The Crown is supporting a collective of Hauraki iwi and hapu aiming to take control of Tauranga just as they have in Auckland and are seeking to do in Northland ... shaky deals such as this are fertile ground for fresh and contemporary claims here and across the country."
He said Ngai Te Rangi had a case for urgency before the Waitangi Tribunal about this matter and any signing (with Pare Hauraki) would circumvent that legal process.
Protest march timetable
9am-10am: Buses carry protesters from Maramatanga Park to Te Puna Station Rd bend
10am: Karakia (prayers)
10.30am: Hikoi departs
12.15pm: Estimated arrival time Taniwha Place for mass haka and speeches