A protester who manoeuvred her kayak in front of a larger vessel in an effort to halt the construction of Waiheke Island’s controversial marina has been granted a discharge without conviction.
Danielle Amy Tollemache, 35, of Palm Beach, Waiheke, appeared in Auckland District Court today. Judge Kathryn Maxwell seemed to acknowledge Tollemache’s heart was in the right place even if she went about her actions wrongly.
“There appears to be no dispute that the gravity was very much at the lower end,” the judge said. “It was clearly well-intentioned. The protest, from your perspective, was peaceful.”
Tollemanche was arrested on November 8, 2021, near the Kennedy Point Marina site and was charged with operating a kayak in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to another person by obstructing the navigation of a vessel. The offence carries a maximum punishment of one year’s imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
The obstructed vessel came to a standstill after Tollemache refused to move her kayak.
Construction of the marina had begun earlier that year after a four-year court battle failed to stop the 186-berth project, which has seen berths pre-sold from $180,000.
In March 2021, opponents began occupying the beach, citing potential damage to the area’s little blue penguin habitat.
Iwi group Protect Pūtiki said at the time that it had no intentions to back down.
“We, Uri o Ngāti Pāoa ... are occupying to protect our ancestral moana, Tikapa Moana, by stopping the proposed Kennedy Point Marina,” the group said. “Many Uri o Ngāti Pāoa – descendants of our iwi – have returned to Waiheke to occupy and have been here since March 9.
“We are committed to staying indefinitely.”
The months-long occupation was eventually halted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant and the strict lockdown that followed. But protests began to ramp up again that November as restrictions on gatherings were loosened.
Tollemache was arrested one day before gatherings of up to 25 people were set to be allowed again.
During today’s hearing, defence lawyer Timothy Leighton said his client was an upstanding member of the community who had never previously been in court. The prosecution did not wish to be heard on the request for a discharge without conviction.
“You do a lot of good in the community,” Judge Maxwell agreed, pointing to Tollemache’s work in support of mental health and diversity.
“I’m satisfied that the consequences [of a conviction] are out of all gravity to this particular offending. It is an appropriate case for me to exercise my discretion. Therefore, I discharge you without conviction.”