A Government announcement to put aside $45 million for a barging facility on the East Cape has been slammed as "bizarre" and unwanted.
Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones on Saturday said the Government had approved in principle an allocation of up to $45m from the Crown Infrastructure Partners infrastructure fund for a marine transport facility on the East Coast, with two suitable sites identified for the facility — Wharekahika/Hicks Bay and Te Araroa.
However, members of the local community and local politicians have scoffed at the idea.
Gisborne Deputy Mayor Josh Wharehinga was scathing of Jones' announcement, taking to Facebook at the weekend to label Jones "a knob".
"For the record, the Gisborne District Council's spatial plan rejected this idea. Our community is speaking. You're not listening - Knob behaviour of the highest order," he stated in a Facebook post.
Not supported by hapu, so not supported by Runanganui
The idea was rejected for inclusion in Gisborne District Council's Tairawhiti 2050 strategy, with submissions highlighting environmental impacts, a lack of consultation and concerns over wahi tapu (sacred sites).
Speaking to The Gisborne Herald, Wharehinga said councillors had visited Wharekahika the day before the announcement and, unprompted, locals had told them they did not want a wharf.
"It's a bizarre announcement because nobody up at Wharekahika spoke up in support for a wharf or a barging facility, or anything like that.
"In fact, the day before we were told the opposite.
"It is just silly, just such a silly announcement."
Wharehinga added it was also apparent during the visit to the area how low river levels were.
"Even if the community supported it, which they don't — the practicality of barging up and down the river, there's no practicality there."
The ability of roads to hold log trucks to get logs to a wharf would also create more problems for infrastructure in the area.
The announcement was met with caution by Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou.
In a statement, chairman Selwyn Parata said infrastructure development on the East Coast is much needed but should not be pursued at any cost.
"We have known for a long time that transport and economic development for the East Coast and for Ngati Porou go hand-in-hand.
"However, earlier proposals for new marine transport facilities were not supported by the hapu, so they were not supported by the Runanganui.
"We acknowledge the Government's intention to work with iwi and engage with local hapu on this proposal," Parata said.
"However, our hapu consider they have already made their position clear on the subject."
The $45m allocated from the "shovel-ready" Covid-19 recovery fund would form the remainder of the $106m allocation for the region, with $60.9m already allocated to projects.
"The council is fully aware of the community's position on this project and supports their wishes," Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said.
"The organisation put forward nine shovel-ready projects to be considered for Crown Infrastructure Project funding, but this was not one of them."