Te Rautaki o Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe is set to be launched at a public hui being held at Korou Kore Marae in Ahipara on April 16
, starting at 10am.
"I'm a bit worried about the whole thing to be honest with you," said Far North District councillor and deputy chairman of the Te-Oneroa-a-Tōhe Management Board Mate Radich.
"There are a lot of things that worry me regarding the management of Ninety Mile Beach, especially the ranks of power we have."
The Te-Oneroa-a-Tōhe Management Board was established as a result of the Te Hiku Claims Settlement Bill, which passed its third and final reading in 2015.
The bill provided for the formation of a joint management body charged with the management of Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe / Ninety Mile Beach, composed of representatives from Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāti Kurī, Te Aupouri, the Far North District Council, and Northland Regional Council.
The establishment of the board and its journey to this point has not been without controversy, with alleged infighting occurring between iwi representatives and others being opposed to establishing the board.
"I don't think change was needed in the first place. I personally was against this whole outfit from the start because I couldn't see any benefit in it," said Radich.
"It is rare that we have them [the five iwi] all there ... They just don't like each other. There are iwi who think they not so much own the beach, but they have full authority on various areas of the beach, and I would say they don't. They just don't realise that their role is to manage the whole beach."
As a result of the bill, Te Hiku iwi received $550,000 to install interpretative signs, raise pouwhenua, and fund regeneration activities along the beach. The Crown also provided $400,000 to the Beach Management Board for their operations and the development of the plan.
As of October 2020, there was a total of $217,000 remaining in the fund.
It has taken the board roughly six years to complete the Beach Management Plan, with various rounds of public consultation taking place. The plan makes a number of recommendations relating to seven main areas, including spiritual value, leadership, ecology and biodiversity, economic wellbeing, recreation, collaboration, and education.
Those who frequent the beach will already be aware of the recently imposed 60 kilometres per hour speed limits on Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe and 30km per hour limits near exit and entry points, a recommendation made by the board.
Radich says he is concerned over who will monitor and enforce such regulations, stating he is opposed to iwi-delegated 'kaitiaki rangers' being given such powers.
"I'm totally against that to be honest with you. We had issues a couple of Christmases ago down at Ahipara. They [local kaitiaki] were very intimidating," Radich said.
The sentiment was shared by Northern 90-Mile Beach Development Ltd, who own 290 hectares of land adjacent to the beach, in their submissions to the board.
"We do not believe that tangata kaitiaki should be able to intercept public vehicles ... Enforcement is already covered by current legislation," the submission stated.
Other recommendations have already been implemented, including increased signage, the prohibition of machinery being used to harvest mussel spat in certain areas, and the banning of vehicles driving on sand dunes.
While most of the recommendations made so far have been well-received, there are some who have been vocal in their opposition to proposed recommendations and others saying the plan doesn't go far enough.
A submission from the Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board called for more clarity over how popular activities such as fishing competitions would be managed.
"We note the plan makes no reference to some high-profile activities such as major fishing competitions and marine mammal strandings ... It would seem appropriate to refer to them and if possible, describe how they will be managed," the submission read.
Despite drawing criticism, there was praise for some of the proposed changes, including from fishing company Sanford and Aquaculture New Zealand, specifically around the regulations put in place for collecting mussel spat.
The regulations adopted by the board include the prohibition of spat collection with heavy machinery during certain periods and in certain areas.
"Sanford recognises the work to revise the Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe Mussel Spat Collecting and Loader Driving Code of Practice and we will ensure that spat collectors will abide by the new rules," Sanford stated in their submission.
While there have been issues among the five represented iwi, Radich is hopeful they will all be represented at Friday's launch. However, he questions what impact the plan will really have.
"I don't think that there will be major changes really, if any," said Radich.