Earlier this year the residents of Aotea submitted to the High Court and were successful in being awarded the right to appeal in the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to grant Coastal Resources Ltd (CRL) permission to increase the amount of sediment it dumps from 50,000 cubic metres to 250,000 cubic metres annually for 35 years, just 25 km of the east coast of Aotea, Great Barrier Island.
Ngāti Rehua uri and Lawyer for the group, Valamaine Toki says, “When the consent was granted, we only had a small window to appeal the granting of the consent, and so a group of us got on board to fight this.\”
The group lodged an appeal with the High Court in Wellington with the case heard on the 22nd and 23rd of July 2019. “CRL had a set of Lawyers and a QC, EPA also had their own set of Lawyers and QC.” “We just had myself and Sue Gray with the help of Elise Bishop and Kelly Klink to fight in the courts, so it was truly like a David versus Goliath kind of issue, but for me it was worth it and we had to fight for this.”
“Every step of the way we have been challenged by CRL and EPA on issues of standing, on technicalities.\”
The areas the group challenged the granting of the consent on was around questions of law, and it will be really tough to try and overturn the decision. The group only had a few grounds to challenge on, which means that the issues were very narrow they could appeal on.
The people of Ngati Rehua are the most directly affected by the granted consent, but they have not been consulted by CRL or the EPA. They say that no public meetings have been held with Ngati Rehua nor have any meetings taken place on Aotea.
Aotea Resident and uri o Ngāti Rehua Kelly Klink says, “What is going to happen to us as a people who rely a lot on the ocean to gather our kaimoana and to access food, we don’t have supermarkets on the Island, we don’t have big shops, and we rely on the moana to feed ourselves.”
“They (CRL and EPA) have not been to the Island to speak to us as the hapū of the island, they have not come onto our marae to see us. We have already told them not to dump there, these are our wahi tapū grounds.”
“We want to be clear this isn’t just about us as māori, this is about all of the community of the Island, and for all New Zealanders. We have come together to have one voice.”
Ngāti Rehua Kaumātua and Aotea resident Opo Ngawaka says, “Our families have been on the island for at least 17 generations, and we have always protected and had concerns for our waters, our whenua and our people.”
“This waste is being dumped about 10 – 15 miles on the outside of Aotea, which is in fact an area where our Whales migrate. I know that because I have seen them and I have fished those waters for some years and we would see them migrating north and south.\”
“This waste is being dumped about 10 – 15 miles on the outside of Aotea, which is in fact an area where our whales migrate. I know that because I have seen them and I have fished those waters for some years and we would see them migrating north and south.\”
“We have great concerns for our Hapuka grounds which are just inside the area where the dumping is happening.”
“That whole area is our customary fishing grounds for our hapū Ngāti Rehua, and what they (CRL and EPL) are doing there is wrong. We know it is wrong, they know it is wrong. This is not about saving money, this is about the consequences that will happen in the future that we don’t know about yet.”
“In the long term and into the future, we will all be paying the price.”
The community of Aotea and their supporters brought Auckland’s Queen St to a standstill on Saturday 6th July by marching in protest of the consent granted to CRL.
The organisers of the protest say that it was important to march to raise awareness for the public first and foremost. A lot of the public don’t know what is going on, and say that everything is very under the table and hidden, so by marching they wanted to tell the public what these big corporate organisations are doing.
Valamaine says, “The support of the march spoke volumes and hopefully the EPA are listening and come back to the table and consider alternatives to this dumping.”
The group are clear that they want to see alternatives considered and say that these types of options have been done effectively in the past with the likes of land based disposal options in landfill, clean fill or cement fill as real alternatives.