Craggy Range chief executive Michael Wilding believes the winery has taken a principled approach since the development of Te Mata track divided opinion throughout the community.

Wilding said that as a successful New Zealand winery, the company was acutely aware of the importance of reputation.

"It would have been much easier for us to simply walk away from the track, but we could not leave the land and the community in a worse position, morally or legally," he said.

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"We have not stepped out of the discussion at all, rather we have provided a number of potential solutions to iwi and council, and we and the community now need to understand what solution they support."

However a brand and marketing expert says Craggy Range Winery could damage its brand if it doesn't do whatever it can to find a resolution to the discord its track has created in the community.

Otago University Department of Marketing associate professor Robert Aitken said that Craggy Range was an established brand, and as such public awareness would not be dented by the furore.

From a reputational point of view, however, the potential for damage to the brand from the fallout was enormous, he said.

While initially iwi were angered that they weren't consulted about the building of the track, which an independent review found was a failing on the part of the Hastings District Council, tensions had inflamed even further in ensuing weeks.

Most recently iwi expressed disappointment that the winery had put forward further proposals for the Te Mata track without consideration of the cultural implications of any ongoing developments.

After several weeks silence on the matter, Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana this week released an open letter to Craggy Range director Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson, outlining his dismay that the issue had divided the community, bringing "the worst of racist and class comments to the fore", and calling for the people at the top of the organisation to mitigate the situation.

In presenting the other proposals the winery put the matter in the hands of iwi and the council to sort out the best way forward, but Aitken said that Craggy Range still definitely had a part to play in finding a resolution.


"When all the details are forgotten, what's the one thing they want to be remembered for in terms of behaviour?

"They can't step out of this - they started it, they need to be the ones to be remembered as finding a solution, and provide the resources and opportunity to do that."

He said Craggy Range did not need to take sides, rather they needed to recognise that something was not right and sort it out, even if it was not their direct responsibility.

"This could make them a hero brand rather than a loser brand."

In light of Tomoana's comments around a "racist one-way tirade" coming from Havelock North, Hawke's Bay Today canvassed councillors to see if they thought such comments were fair.

Councillor Damon Harvey responded that he was very disappointed that this issue had created a huge rift within the community.

"There is deep and strong feelings on the issue and it's important that there is a level of respect.

"It's important that the cultural history and significance on Te Mata Peak is better understood by our community. As councillors we have been given a good history lesson in recent times."

Councillor Simon Nixon also responded, saying he thought everyone involved in the track debate should concentrate on finding an agreeable resolution to that issue and avoid including issues that were not directly connected.

"It's easy to get annoyed, but ratcheting up arguments simply cements the views of those who already feel strongly on the matter."

Tukituki National MP Lawrence Yule said that if some things had been done differently the matter might not have ended up as it had.

However, now was the time to discuss options.

"Somehow we as a community have to work together and find a way forward - I would be very sad if this ended up in some sort of racial tension greater than it needs to be - my understanding is everyone is trying to find a way through it."