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Waikawau Boat Ramp 

Readers will be aware that I have steered clear of this fraught argument over recent times. I did venture a post on it back at the beginning when I was fairly clear in my own mind, based on the information that I had been provided as to the correctness of the Ngati Tamatera claim. But there is no doubt that Clancy Nixon's research threw a great deal of doubt on the veracity of the original claim.

Be that as it may, Treaty Negotiator Mike Dreaver has taken it on himself to act as judge and jury on the matter and has issued an edict that the Government has made its decison, and that it is totally in favour of Ngati Tamatera - takeover in two years time.

What is interesting about this is that we were told back in the time of the previous Council that it was not a matter that could be dealt with under the Treaty claim process because the dispute arose from a 1870 (circa) survey mistake. A huge amount of obfuscation followed surrounding the erosion and accretion of land, but the original mistake remained as the cause, and it was strongly contended at the time by all the experts who examined the issue that the matter could only be resolved by correcting that mistake.

It was strongly argued at the time that the matter would have to be referred to the Maori Land Court. I then lost track of the various arguments until Clancy compiled his 'history' that contended that severe injustices would result from such a course - backed up with photographic and written research that certainly painted a different, or at least arguable case.

I heard previous CEO Steve Ruru roundly rubbish this 'research' but remain unconvinced as to the merits of either arguments, and I supect that it may have put a cat amongst the pigeons in certain quarters. It seemed to me that it would need a judicial process to arrive at anything sustainable, unless the two sides (well three actually if you take the Tramcar Society view into account) could be persuaded to come together a reach a negotiated settlement that served the needs of both. This would invariably have involved Ngati Tamatera ownership with the boaties and tramies having some kind of guaranteed access. This would surely have involved an increase in the admittedly extremely low access charges in order to provide to owners with an income from the ramp.

Knowing how important this ramp is to hundreds of of boaties - mostly from the Plains and outside of our Council area, I would have thought that this should have been achievable, but unfortunately. hotheads on both sides made such an agreement impossible.

Then on Christmas Eve came a fatuous Press Release from Council that attempted to be all things to all people without the writer appearing to have a clue about what had gone on in the past.

This was followed by the following letter to Boat Ramp members from Clancy Nixon:

Dear Members,

The Society has been advised by Mike Dreaver, the Chief Crown negotiator for the Hauraki Waitangi Treaty Claims, that the Government has made its decision on the future ownership of the Waikawau Recreation Reserve. The decision is that the Reserve is to be handed to local Iwi Ngati Tamatera.

In handing the Reserve to Ngati Tamatera the Government has stated that it seeks to protect the rights and interests of existing users, such as the boat ramp society.  Other popular New Zealand recreational areas have been handed to Maori in a manner which has preserved the rights and access of interested parties and the general public.  The Waikawau Boat Ramp Society Committee are optimistic that we will continue to enjoy access to the Firth of Thames via the Waikawau Reserve if goodwill is shown by all parties.

The Society has requested that the Thames Coromandel District Council take a role in negotiating with Ngati Tamatera the terms and conditions we will be able to continue our use of the Reserve. It is hoped that we will be in a position to know those conditions by the 31st March next year (2013).

In the meantime our use of the Reserve will continue as it is at present and no changes are likely to take place within the next two years.

It would seem that the Boat Ramp people have given up on achieving their ultimate aim of ownership, or at least a permanent lease form the Council that would enable them to get on with their expansion plans - plans that may have to stay on hold indefinately, or until satisfactory arrangements can be made with Ngati Tamatera. This turn of events is quite surprising, but understandable - you need almost infinite resources to fight a Treaty Settlement, and they clearly think they have the upper hand even though nearly everyone agrees that this was never a Treaty issue. 

What remains now is for the appearance of some 'good offices' locally to step between the two major parties and attempt to achieve a settlement that can survive the two year period between now and transfer, and ensure access on agreeeable terms into the future. Members had better just get used to  higher fees - after all, the access to the seemingly prolific snapper fishing grounds around the mussel rafts is apparently extremely important to them, and the numbers that use the facility certainly attest to that.

There is simply too much bad blood for them to be able to complete an agreement without the 'good offices' that I have alluded to. Could I further suggest that an excellent nominee may well be Deputy Mayor Peter French - he has no axe to grind, is not a fisherman as far as I am aware, and has good support on both sides of the fence. This would really be a feather in his cap if he could pull this off and keep all those high priced arbitrators and conciliators at bay.




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