Modern Day Land Grab or Treaty Settlement?
Point England Reserve Development Enabling Bill.
As is often the case it takes a lone voice to raise awareness and alert a local community to a situation or issue with potentially negative impacts. In this particular instance Shaun Lee, a local Point England resident, long-time community volunteer and environmentalist is that person. Shaun garnered the support of local community members and helped to form savepe.org.nz .
This dedicated group has been instrumental in alerting the public, community boards, council as well as central Government politicians to their concerns with regard to the proposed re-zoning of 11.9 hectares of Point England Reserve. This bill would create a separate area of land within the reserve and re-zone it as residential. Why and how this is happening is a complex battle between different parties with different vested interests.
This bill is currently opposed by the Auckland Council, Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board, Labour, New Zealand First, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society as well as significant numbers of the local community. The Green Party has abstained.
Within the vicinity of the reserve, Tamaki Regeneration Company (TRC), which is owned by Auckland Council and Central Government, are building 7500 new homes over the next 15 years. Bordered both by state houses and million dollar homes this reserve looks out over the Tamaki Estuary. Greater intensification to cater for the anticipated population increase of 20,000 is necessary but this reserve land should not be utilised – despite the million dollar views.
Now another complication. This bill will allow for the sale of this land to Ngāti Paoa. What we have is a commercial transaction in which the Government intends to sell to Ngāti Paoa re-zoned reserve land for a housing development and dedicated space for a Marae as part of a treaty settlement. However should Ngāti Paoa or another iwi choose not to purchase the land the bill provides an opportunity for the purchase of the land by the private sector. It is important for Ngāti Paoa to be compensated, we are not in opposition to their right to economic redress but not at the expense of protected reserve land and the environment.
Because the environment and wildlife species will suffer. Numerous submissions in opposition to this bill have made this abundantly clear. One such concern is that this reserve is the roosting habitat of between 50-90% of the remaining wild shore birds in the Tamaki Estuary and covers 50% of the nesting ground for the endangered NZ Dotterel. In addition statutory requirements under the Resource Management Act (1991) including consultation, public engagement and environmental assessment are removed. If this precedent-setting, fast-tracking bill is passed into legislation what is to prevent this happening to other reserves?
The Green Party’s reasons for abstaining were outlined in an April blogpost Point England: An almighty mess in the making by Eugenie Sage and Marama Davidson.
What is clear is that the values of the Green Party and the Green Party Charter of ecological wisdom, social responsibility and appropriate decision-making are contravened by this bill. However the party’s over-arching commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi means any opposition in response to these concerns are re-framed within the context of an irregular attempt at a treaty settlement.
Alternative options have been proposed but, and we quote from the report issued by the select committee in response to submissions, “any new proposal involving other development land or any adjustment to the current proposal would require renegotiation with all parties that could potentially be affected.” So why not take the time to do this? The bill as it presently stands pits the community in opposition to Ngāti Paoa, local government against central government, the environment against development and Green Party members against Green Party members.
Meanwhile Shaun Lee can see that the process initiated by Nick Smith, the Minister for Building and Construction and ironically the Minister for the Environment means this precious reserve land could well be lost and his hopes for the birdlife dashed. In response he and others have now launched a new protest platform called SaveOurReserves.org.nz. He does not want what is happening in Pt England to be repeated anywhere else in New Zealand.
– Maureen Titchener and Dorthe Siggaard are Auckland-based Greens.
The Point England Reserve Development Enabling Bill has passed its 2nd reading and is at committee stage before the whole house.
Voting on 2nd Reading:
Abstentions 14: Green Party 14.
Next up would be 3rd reading and then it would be passed into law with royal assent.