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Waitakere City residents are opposing plans for a marae on coastal fields once promoted as the People's Park.

But local Maori say it's a case of "ponies versus people".

They are upset that some objectors want the land to stay as a pony club grazing area rather than using it to benefit the Te Atatu peninsula's growing Maori population.

The city council resolved 21 months ago to give 2.5ha for a marae.

This week it has been hearing submissions on changing the zoning of 36ha beside the Northwestern Motorway to allow the marae.

In July the council named the land, which has sweeping views up the Waitemata Harbour, Harbourview-Orangihina Park at the suggestion of Te Kawerau a Maki elders.

Mayor Bob Harvey wants the park to become a cultural, art and tourism attraction to rival Kelly Tarlton's aquarium and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

But the bid to change the zoning to open space and a marae area met stiff resistance yesterday.

The Te Atatu Residents and Ratepayers Association led the charge of 74 submissions against putting the marae in the area suggested. Seventeen submissions backed the marae.

"We are not against a marae at Te Atatu - just that site," said association president Leo Nobilo.

"We are against anyone building there because we are trying to keep it open space.

"There are six other sites the council could be looking at."

Fellow objector Anne Grace said marae and preschool buildings would spoil a view of open fields and harbour appreciated by thousands of people who pass down the road daily.

Te Atatu Marae Coalition secretary Melba Wellington said the concept for the marae was for it to be partly sunk into a natural mound and to have a turf roof.

"It won't block any view shaft because complainants' homes to the south are on a higher ridge.

"I find it shameful they are complaining so hard and fast about a marae when marae in Rotorua are showcases."

The marae would help meet the needs of the community, and would cater for the growing number of Maori youth in the suburb. "It is a much-needed and long-awaited facility."

She said Maori made up nearly a quarter of Te Atatu peninsula residents.

Mrs Wellington said some objectors wanted the marae land allocated to the pony club.

"They look at the horses in comparison to us and I wonder what have we here? Ponies versus people?"

Council planning officers say the marae will be subject to new district plan rules, which will ensure any harmful effects are addressed.

The story so far

Harbourview-Orangihina Park, Te Atatu Peninsula.

* October 2000: Waitakere City Council says it will gazette 36ha as the People's Park.

* February 2002: Council votes to give 2.5ha of the park for a marae after Maori sought 10ha.

* July 2003: Council agrees to creating a Maori reservation to give a marae long-term tenure.

* November 2003: Of 91 submissions received, 74 oppose a district plan change to allow a marae area.

Herald Feature: Maori issues

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