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Ngāti Toa iwi sends warning as hundreds march on Parliament against fast-track consenting bill

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Hundreds of protesters marched on Parliament to oppose the fast-track legislation. Photo / Marty Melville

Ngāti Toa Rangatira is warning the Government and developers of future protests if the proposed fast-track consenting legislation leads to negative consequences for whānau and the environment.

Hundreds marched on Parliament today, approaching silently as a symbol of the land and sea not having a voice to respond to what might come from the Government’s aim to speed up consenting and allow infrastructure development to occur quicker.

The bill is currently before select committee. It has been widely criticised for the power it gave three ministers to decide which projects were fast-tracked.

Normally protesters are confined to Parliament’s lawns. This time, they covered the forecourt – something for which protest organisers Te Pāti Māori received a telling-off by Speaker of the House Gerry Brownlee but it appeared that was the extent of the reprimand.

Members of Te Pāti Māori, the Green Party and Labour stood alongside the protest group. All three Opposition parties oppose the bill. Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka and RMA Minister Chris Bishop received the protest.

Ngāti Toa chief executive Helmut Modlik, addressing the ministers and the crowd through a speaker, said his communities lived every day with the “pollution” caused by previous fast-track legislation.

“Our message therefore first to you today, to you ministers and to this Government, is that such harm must never happen again,” he said.

He referenced the development that led to the degradation of Te-Awarua-o-Porirua [Porirua Harbour] as evidence of the harm that could be caused.

“Ministers, if you want to see what fast-track development does, come to Porirua and see what mess it makes.

“I want to swim in Te Awarua-o-Porirua before they put me in a hole.”

Ngāti Toa's protest of the fast-track consenting legislation on the steps of Parliament. Photo / Adam Pearse
Ngāti Toa’s protest of the fast-track consenting legislation on the steps of Parliament. Photo / Adam Pearse

Modlik talked of the shared frustration iwi and Government had with consenting delays and its cost, but he sent a warning to ministers and any developers with projects that would have serious environmental impacts.

“I tell you, this generation of Ngāti Toa won’t allow that to happen,” he said, to strong cheers and applause.

“We will organise ourselves, our community will come and we will ensure that no matter what your consent says is, there will be no degradation, any more, of the whenua [land] and the water in the rohe [area] of Ngāti Toa Rangatira.”

Bishop said he had heard the iwi’s challenge and would continue to meet with leaders.

“As I’ve said many times, we’re open to constructive, sensible changes to the bill to ameliorate some of the concerns that Ngāti Toa Rangatira and others have.

“We will work our way through that in a respectful, constructive way, in a mana-enhancing way.”

Potaka lauded the “responsible” form of protest by the iwi and argued it and the Government had shared aspirations.

“We want good, positive outcomes and healthy outcomes for our communities, and we feel as though the current legislative frameworks actually prevented those outcomes from surfacing.

“Whilst we might have some differences in opinion on how to do that, we remain in a shared commitment to actually generate, create and enable those outcomes.”

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

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