A Time for Honour and Action
By Trevor Amundsen
It was in December four years ago that the Informer reported in depth on a decision made by the Mercury Bay Community Board of the TCDC. This decision was to abide by the Agreement they had entered into with various other parties with regards to the Taputapuatea Spit and to commence the removal of all illegally planted or wild sown trees and weeds on the Spit. They did give one of those parties, the Forest and Bird Society, the opportunity to respond to the decision, but if no response was received by the end of March the following year, the area was to be immediately cleared of all illicit plantings, be they deliberate or accidental.
This decision was met with celebration by those of us that care for this area. The Spit was originally just a sand spit. In fact you can read what Captain James Cook had to say about it in his journal; writing that, “The Country especially on the East side (of the river he was rowing into) is barren, and for the most part destitute of wood, or any other signs of fertility”. Quite right, it was a sand spit, even the English could spot that. So we were pleased that the meddling of certain groups was to be corrected, but we were also very pleased for the preservation of one of our town’s greatest assets; its readily accessible vistas of Mercury Bay. This was an integral part of the agreement made between TCDC, Ngati Hei, Forest and Bird and a Local Residents Group almost 20 years ago.
Whitianga is almost unique in New Zealand in that it is a town whereby access to views of a glorious Bay are readily available to residents and visitors, be they looking from their cars as they drive along Buffalo Beach Road, be they walking or jogging along the footpath, be they sitting in a Restaurant, be they stopping for a breather on the Taputapuatea Bridge, or be they admiring those views from their homes. The public access to our vistas must be preserved if we are to avoid being just another Orewa, with its vistas locked away by houses and planting between the public and the vista.
Unfortunately, from the high point of a Community Board commitment, the disappointment started to set in as dates came and went and the TCDC staff did not undertake the actions the Community Board had agreed to. There was a number of reasons given for the delay, none of which made sense to us simple folk who feel that a promise made is a promise that must be honoured. But we are just simple folk, not politicians. I spent some time with the Community Board members leading up to their decision of four years ago. They were willing to visit and see what the problem was, to discuss resolution and so on. Many of these politicians, both present and retired, were good people but you couldn’t help but get the view they didn’t like taking firm action. This was, unless of course a member of the public decided to enforce the Taputapatea Spit Agreement by clearing a few of the wilding trees for the Council. In such cases, the embarrassed Community Board would erect a large sign to block off the view, a sort of surrogate Pohutakawa, whereas they should have been rewarding their clandestine sub-contractor.
During this time the most sensible comment I heard from a Community Board member was from the gentleman who loudly announced during a meeting that we should get rid of all trees and plant it in grass. Alas, for the loss of pragmatic politicians.
In the ensuing years a group of Wellington Bureaucrats have become involved, not by invitation, and declared that local Iwi should make a decision about development of the Spit. This announcement was about development, not maintenance, however TCDC have used this as an excuse to justify doing nothing; deplorable inaction really. Maintenance should be carried out and the spit returned to its natural state. This would leave Ngati Hei with a ‘blank canvas’ for any use of the area that would acknowledge and celebrate their ancestry and affiliation with the Bay region.
Four years have gone by since The Informer made the popular announcement that meant the TCDC were to be honourable in this matter. Let us hope that with a new group in power, the sense of honour will return, promises and agreements will be met, and our community will be allowed to benefit by the preservation and development of our shore front and our vistas.
CAPTION: View 2016