Cycle trail will run right over the top of ancient urupā - Kaikōura locals


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Tangata whenua at the top of the South Island are condemning the proposed Picton to Kaikōura cycle trail after discovering the 200km-long trail could run right over the top of ancient pā sites and urupā.   

The $12 million cycle trail will intersect Blenheim (passing near the Wairau Bar, one of the oldest settlement sites in the country), Seddon, Ward, Kekerengu, and Clarence.

The Marlborough Kaikōura Trail Trust, the organisation pushing for the cycle trail, expects between 19,000 and 35,000 users each year.

But local tangata whenua are criticising the trail for intersecting ancient pā sites and urupā with dozens of protesters marching on the Kaikōura District Council on Wednesday calling for a stop to the desecration of wāhi tapu sites.

“We’re not meant to bike over our urupā,” said local MP Rino Tirikatene.  

The Kaikōura peninsular is famous for its former pā sites with more than two dozen archaeological sites in the area including Takahanga pā, an ancient pā site that remains in use as the home of Takahanga Marae.

Local tangata whenua confirm that at least a dozen more pā sites run from the peninsular to Picton.

But despite the cycle trail’s potential impact on wāhi tapu sites consultation under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) did not occur. Instead consents for the proposed cycle trail were assessed under the Hurunui/Kaikōura Earthquakes Recovery (Coastal Route and Other Matters) Order 2016, the special legislation passed after the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake.

Under the RMA projects that will have or are likely to have an adverse impact on the environment that are more than minor must be publicly notified, meaning submissions can be taken and a public hearing held. But under the special legislation consent applications must be granted as a controlled activity and cannot be publicly notified.

This mean tangata whenua groups and other locals miss out on the opportunity to participate in a public hearing and make formal submissions under the RMA.

“If there was a full consultation under the RMA this problem would not have occurred,” said Karen Starkey (Ngāi Tahu), one of the protest organisers.

Instead the use of special legislation meant tangata whenua groups were not given an adequate opportunity to identify wāhi tapu sites and work with KiwiRail, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery Alliance (NCTIR) on alternative routes.

“We’re asking [the Kaikōura District Council] to organise a robust meeting with KiwiRail, NZTA and the NCTIR to discuss the planning and design work for our area of coastline,” said Starkey.

Starkey and supporters are aiming to secure an alternative route for the cycle trail, one that avoids, pā sites, urupā or other wāhi tapu sites.

The Kaikōura District Council – responsible for overseeing the cycle trail’s consents but not the design, construction or funding - is sympathetic, encouraging residents to have their say despite the truncated consultation under the special legislation.

“The changes proposed by the New Zealand Transport Agency and KiwiRail to the coastal area along SH1 include some of the district’s most valued areas. Mangamaunu is especially important to many of Kaikoura’s residents and visitors including those who have cultural or family connections to the area,” a council spokesperson said.

“We understand that NZTA and KiwiRail are still finalising their designs and are happy to hear from the community.”

The protesters asked Tirikatene to deliver their concerns to Parliament and vowed to continue opposing the cycle trail until alternatives are found.

“It’s 2018. We have to be consulted,” said Tirikatene to loud cheers from the crowd.

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