Subscribe to Premium

Whareroa Marae has given the Government a 10-year deadline to get heavy industry out of Mount Maunganui.

The demand, made to Ministry of Environment officials during a visit to the marae today, comes after the marae and its supporters asked the city and regional councils to address the future of the industrial area amid concerns about poor air quality and pollution.

At today's meeting, marae environment spokesman Joel Ngātuere called on the Government to take action for the sake of residents' health and wellbeing.

"Our whānau are tired, our whānau are sick. And our whānau are tired of being sick."

Advertisement

Ngātuere said, as well as the managed retreat of heavy industry, he wanted an immediate pause on all consents that were in the process or were about to be applied for, whether renewals or new.

The marae has recently opposed a proposal for a jet fuel tank farm to be built nearby on Totara St.

"We're being generous by saying you have 10 years to sort this mess out," Ngātuere said today.

"Our whānau are being subjected to harmful pollutants every hour of the day.

"If it is not good enough for your children, then it is not good enough for ours."

Heavy industry has been building up around the marae, of Ngāi Te Rangi hapū Ngāti Kuku and Ngāi Tukairangi, for decades.

In the same area is a housing village with a population of around 80, as well as a kohanga reo and offices.

The air above the industrial zone and marae was designated a polluted airshed in 2019 and in March public health authorities called for immediate action on Mount Maunganui's air pollution problem, presenting evidence it was harming people's health.

Advertisement
Ministry for Environment acting director Liz Moncrieff. Photo / George Novak
Ministry for Environment acting director Liz Moncrieff. Photo / George Novak

Ministry for the Environment acting director Liz Moncrieff told those present she would take the message back with her.

"For me right now, unfortunately, it is about building up more information from them [regional council] about what they're doing."

She said Local Government and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta's portfolio in air quality allowed her to look at whether councils were doing the job they were meant to be doing.

"We obviously have some more work to do, to keep an eye on this issue."

Whareroa marae environment spokesman Joel Ngātuere has given the government 10 years to orchestrate the managed retreat of heavy industry in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak
Whareroa marae environment spokesman Joel Ngātuere has given the government 10 years to orchestrate the managed retreat of heavy industry in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak

She said she would like to understand how the two parties could continue talking, not just from hui to hui and nothing in between.

Ngātuere was supported by Clear the Air Mount Maunganui group member Emma Jones, who said the whole community wanted action.

Advertisement

"We want a concrete plan to show how these industries can move out of here. It is non-negotiable."

Emma Jones, right, with residents, from left, Manea Ngātai and mokopuna TJ and AJ Ngātai, Joel Ngātuere with Te Whei Ao and Te Otinga Harris. Photo / George Novak
Emma Jones, right, with residents, from left, Manea Ngātai and mokopuna TJ and AJ Ngātai, Joel Ngātuere with Te Whei Ao and Te Otinga Harris. Photo / George Novak

Kuia and kaumatua of Whareroa shared their concerns, echoing the sentiments of Ngātuere.

Wenarata Kopae said every day there was black "muck" on the windows, that could not be wiped with a tissue, only chemicals.

"That is what we breathe in ... slow death. That is what we go through.

"We have been protesting for years and years, but nothing [has happened]."

Wenarata Kupae said every day there was black
Wenarata Kupae said every day there was black "muck" on the windows. Photo / George Novak

Jenny Smith said there were 22 children under 10 years of age permanently living in the village - it was them that residents of Whareroa were fighting for.

Advertisement

"We just want to look after them, we want our marae to be safe and we want our whānau to be safe. That is all we are asking."

Mahuta was supposed to accompany environment ministry officials to the meeting but cancelled on Monday, leaving the community "hugely disappointed".

"There must be something so much more important than for a minister not to listen to the health of a Māori community," Ngātuere said.

Jenny Smith was fighting the fight for the tamariki of Whareroa. Photo / George Novak
Jenny Smith was fighting the fight for the tamariki of Whareroa. Photo / George Novak

In response, Mahuta told the Bay of Plenty Times she was aware of the community's health concerns.

"I had intended to meet with the marae today myself but my announcement with the Prime Minister of the major infrastructure investment in three waters had to take precedence. I am happy to consider a later meeting with the marae."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, along with Mahuta were in Hawke's Bay to announce a $761 million investment to help councils around the country upgrade "run down" water services.

Advertisement
Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said it was strongly committed to ensuring its operations have the least possible impact on the environment. Photo / File
Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said it was strongly committed to ensuring its operations have the least possible impact on the environment. Photo / File

The Port of Tauranga has said moving some neighbouring businesses to other places might be a long-term option, but it was a discussion for residents, ratepayers and the city and regional councils.

Last month, the joint council-iwi committee, the Tauranga Moana Advisory Group, passed a resolution recommending the Bay of Plenty Regional, Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District councils work with Whareroa to urgently develop an action plan and commission an "independent, comprehensive report to investigate the potential for instigating a managed retreat of pollutant industries from the Totara St site south of Hewletts Rd".

Ngātuere said he has given both Ardern and Mahuta until July 17 to respond to his call.