Make the boundaries clear and stick to the settlement.
These are the sentiments of people contacting the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender to complain about being denied access to the footpath at Five Mile Bay since a rāhui was placed over the area on June 12.
The Ngāti Tūwharetoa Claims Settlement Act 2018 saw the entire area known as Five Mile Bay Recreation Reserve handed to Te Kotahitanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the vehicle for receiving cultural redress on behalf of hapū.
On June 12 the iwi removed vehicle access to the area used by freedom campers and began providing information to the public about the new ownership.
Fear of reprisals meant all but one person spoken to for this article did not want their experience and name published.
Napier resident Michael Lintott owns a holiday/retirement home at Wharewaka and was prepared to speak as he thought it was important it was reported to the wider community that aggression and intimidation tactics were being deployed against people using the popular footpath at Five Mile Bay.
A keen dog walker, last week Michael was accosted by a man and woman in a vehicle while out walking his dogs and attempting to access the footpath from just below the Taupō Scenic Lookout.
"We were on what we call the top paddock near the narrow strip above the flat area down below."
A vehicle drove up to him and a man yelled out aggressively 'you can't go along there it's private land'.
"Then a woman politely told us that she had evidence the land belonged to them, and told me I couldn't go there."
Keen to avoid a confrontation, Michael and his dog headed off in the other direction.
Others who have contacted the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender report of old people being yelled at, cyclists turned around and a marked drop-off in people using the footpath due to fear of being accosted and yelled at or worse.
Michael says he just wants to know where he is allowed to go and wants the boundaries made clear. He says there is one law and wants everyone to stick to the rules.
"I will respect access to the areas where access is at the land owners' discretion. I want the settlement carried out as laid down in the act," said Michael.
Taupō Police Senior Sergeant Fane Troy confirmed that since June 12 police have attended calls for service at Five Mile Bay Recreation Reserve and said police are working with all parties involved to resolve the matter.
Department of Conservation operations manager Dave Lumley confirmed what was the Five Mile Bay Recreation Reserve has been managed solely by Te Kotahitanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa since Covid-19 alert level 4. In time, administration will pass to the hapū o Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
"The owners of the site are Te Kotahitanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa. DoC no longer has management responsibilities for the site."
Dave clarified that between the Ngāti Tūwharetoa Settlement Claims Act 2018 and the country going into Covid-19 alert level 4, for an interim period DoC's role was to manage the Five Mile Bay Recreation Reserve on behalf of Te Kotahitanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
"DoC's role changed after the rāhui beginning June 12. We no longer have any management responsibility."
Te Kotahitanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa spokeswoman Merehira Savage said they were keen to eliminate the tension between hapū and the public at Five Mile Bay.
She said the hapū have waited so long for their settlement and it was the role of Te Kotahitanga to provide hapū with education to acknowledge the presence of the reserve status that applied to two of the four blocks of land at Five Mile Bay.
Last week Te Kotahitanga met with police, Department of Conservation and Taupō District Council to work out a way forward for managing public access. Merehira said this was followed up with a hapū meeting last Monday night.
She confirmed the rāhui would stay and said a gate and sign would be constructed at the access point off State Highway 1. A map will also be distributed to show where the boundaries are and delineate the areas of land where there is a reserve.
"The signage will inform the public about the rāhui and where it applies, so people will know there is no longer vehicle access into the area."
Out surveying Tawhaa Rd reserve last Sunday was Taupō District Council head of community, culture and heritage Dylan Tahau. Tawhaa is a legal road running through the middle of the area at Five Mile Bay that has been transferred back to Te Kotahitanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa. On Google Maps, Tawhaa Rd is the green dotted line 110m to 176m back from the beach.
"There are pegs in the ground and we have confirmed the boundary line for Tawhaa Rd reserve to demarcate the public access area while conversations are going on around Five Mile Bay Recreation Reserve," said Dylan.
"The biggest message is for everyone to just calm the farm and take a breath," said Dylan.
"The communication around settlement was last year, and maybe people missed it."
Dylan said a fence will be constructed on the land side of Tawhaa Rd so people will know where they can go.
On Monday a resident who did not want to be named wrote to mayor David Trewavas and chief executive officer Gareth Green requesting the council not put a fence up at Five Mile Bay without a prior public discussion.
"It is one thing to put up some temporary signage for clarification of boundaries until the situation is resolved. Putting fencing up would be making a permanent situation of restricting public access to a legally designated recreational reserve that has guaranteed public access."
To further complicate matters, Dylan confirmed the road between State Highway 1 and the tented area is actually part of State Highway 1.
Effectively this means Transit New Zealand is the administering authority of the section of road coned off from State Highway 1 and where the rahui applies.
On Monday the asphalt area between the toilet and the lake was ripped up by a digger.
"Many people think the sealed section between the toilet and the lake is also a public road. It is not. This section of roading is part of the recreation reserve," said Dylan.
Walk away, is his advice to people who find themselves in a confrontation.
"I would encourage people to keep safe and avoid confrontation," said Dylan.