In the early 1980s, Ngati Hine leader Sir James Henare opposed any Opua Marina development without consultation or recognition of tangata whenua.

Now, 26 years since his passing, Ngati Hine have signed an agreement they hope will honour his message.

Last Friday, Ngati Hine and council-owned Far North Holdings signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would hopefully create a dialogue Sir James had yearned for.

"The purpose of the MoU is to allow Far North Holdings [FNH] and Te Runanga o Ngati Hine to work closely together on matters of mutual endeavour such as the water quality of the river, economic development opportunities and more," said Ngati Hine's Pita Tipene.

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At the signing, renowned carver Wallace Hetaraka recalled how Sir James had commissioned him to carve the Pouwhenua (carved post), opposite the Opua Hall.

"That is why the figure head on the post has a hand clasped over its eye," Mr Hetaraka told a crowd of about a hundred, "it was frustration at not being heard."

Last year, FNH revealed it planned to expand the existing 250-berth marina with the establishment of 170 new berths as well as a 1ha reclamation and new on-shore facilities.

This decision caused vocal protest from locals who feared the effects the expansion would have on things like water quality and access to the waterfront.

This protest was heard again at the signing with several voices being raised in opposition - some weren't happy with the process and others were about what was at stake.

Te Runanga o Ngati Hine chairman, Waihoroi Shortland, took a novel approach to addressing the controversy by telling his co-signee, "If your intent to treat Ngati Hine is not reflected in this MoU, don't sign."

Ross Blackman, FNH chairman, assured those with doubts that he didn't expect that the MoU would change opposition to stage 2 of the development of the Opua Marina.