About 60 people gathered at 11 Mission St this afternoon in a peaceful protest against a Tauranga City Council decision.

Supporters of the Ōtamataha Trust were standing against the council's decision not to give the historic land to the trust, which represents the interests of hapu Ngāti Tapu and Ngāi Tamarawaho.

The council on Tuesday revoked an earlier decision to give the land, which neighbours the Elms, to the trust.

It was a decision trust chairman Puhirake Ihaka said would cause a "downward turn" in the relationship between tangata whenua and the council.


The council voted to give the land to an entity representing the interests of both the trust and the Elms Foundation.

Trust deputy chairman Peri Kohu told the crowd that as he watched the council "take care of business" and vote on Tuesday, his immediate thought was "we should go and occupy that land".

"Having been one who has occupied land in the past [the Tauranga Town Hall in 1987] I felt we should come here and show support and offer a forum for those who want to say something about what happened."

Kohu said the idea was to "express our dissatisfaction with what I see as a non-recognition of our partnership status [under the Treaty of Waitangi]".

"You and I as Māori have struggled to have that partnership included in all of the discussions."

11 Mission St protest . Photo / Andrew Warner
11 Mission St protest . Photo / Andrew Warner

He said Māori needed to keep talking to their partners and seeking a solution.

Acting Tauranga City Council chief executive Paul Davidson and manager of strategic Māori engagement Carlo Ellis represented the council at the event, along with deputy mayor and mayoral candidate Kelvin Clout.

Clout - who voted to give the land to the trust - spoke to the crowd and said in his view, the council had not done the decision-making process well.


"All the to-ing and fro-ing is not great. It is a poor example of leadership in our city."

He believed the next elected council would be able to make a more "definitive" decision, advising those gathered to "keep patient and keep doing the mahi [work]".

Matakana Island kaumatua Bob Rolleston - who took on Minister Andrew Little outside Parliament last year - said a call for patience was just an attempt "to calm us down".

"Let's not be nice any more. Be nice, and this is what you end up with - nothing.

"My mantra is to stand up ... and not listen to this Pakeha bull****."

A woman who did not give her name said she had been a gardener at the Elms for the past three-and-a-half years.

"The saddest thing that I noted when I first started working there was all these pictures with the names of all the colonials and no pictures, no stories, of our Māori.

"I thought that was really bad. Personally, I want to change that."

Pirihina McMath was among several speakers who urged those gathered to vote in the local elections.

Māori could not wait for an invitation to have a seat at the council table, she said.

Ngāi Tamarawaho kaumatua and trust member Des Tata spoke to the history of the area.

He said the process the council took was "unfair" and thanked the councillors who supported the trust.

"I hope we can continue this sort of gathering together so we can put some pressure on that round table downtown."