Hokianga residents upset about the water quality in their harbour have used a Waitangi Day protest to draw national attention to the issue.

Led by Green Party candidate Godfrey Rudolph, who has whakapapa to the Hokianga, the marchers chanted "Hokianga no paru!" (pollution) and carried placards with slogans such as "Keep kaka out of our moana".

The march followed the traditional hīkoi route from Te Tii Marae up Tau Henare Drive to the Treaty Grounds' top entrance, circled the flagpole – prompting grumbles from a few people who had come to watch the Navy band perform – and ended at Te Whare Rūnanga, the carved meeting house.

Most of the 100 or so marchers had travelled from the Hokianga to take part. They were joined by half a dozen Green MPs, including Marama Davidson, who also has roots in the Hokianga and was the main speaker.

Tyla-Maree Davis-Watling needs no words to get her message across. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Tyla-Maree Davis-Watling needs no words to get her message across. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Jessie McVeagh, of the environmental group Te Mauri o Te Wai, said the aim was to draw national attention to the state of the harbour.

"Our harbour is being polluted from lots of sources, but also from human waste. We've come to Waitangi because it is a Treaty issue – under Article 2 all the treasures, the taonga, were to be honoured. Water is one of those things and getting kai moana without the offence of human waste is another."

McVeagh said she was also petitioning central government to provide more financial support to small communities that couldn't afford proper wastewater systems on their own.

Dallas Williams, who represents the hapū of Omanaia, said effluent in the harbour – even if it had been treated – was not okay or culturally acceptable.

Sewage was not the only cause of pollution but it was the current focus for the practical reason that a number of resource consents, starting with the Opononi-Omapere wastewater plant, were coming up for renewal soon.

The Far North District Council says it's not correct to say it's doing nothing about the sewage issues, and plenty of work is being carried out on the four treatment plants discharging into the harbour.