Drift deck gives long awaited access

Published 4th Oct 2011
Tears of joy fell from Ranginui (light rain) as karakia were recited at the opening and crossing of the new drift deck giving access to the Rangitoto Tuhua 67B4C2 block near Taumarunui and to Petania Marae, realising a dream owners have held for 60 years.

A change in the position of the bridge across the Taringamotu stream had left the 108 hectare land block and marae landlocked all that time ago, explains Advisory Trustee Kahi Dickinson.

"The road is a public road up to the marae and the land, but when the bridge washed away 60 years ago, the Council built a new one further downstream, leaving our people having to request access through a section of private road to reach their whenua and marae.  And over the years, that access was often not given easily," she says.

Low cost option

"Being landlocked had also lowered the value of the land so in 2007, owners agreed to withhold  distributions with the aim of restoring access.  The Māori Trustee who is Responsible Trustee for the block, worked with us to find the best option.  A new bridge was estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the advisor retained by Māori Trustee suggested a drift deck which allows water to go through and over the structure.

“The Māori Trustee team managed the project.  We started in late September 2010 and it was completed the end of March at a cost of around $62,000 giving direct access to the block - and very importantly to the marae.  Having the ‘clout’ of a big organisation like Māori Trustee also helped us a lot in the resource consent process and negotiating with the Council and Land Corp, who own adjoining land,” says Mrs Dickinson.

Māori Trustee Regional Manager for Aōtea and Takitimu, Novena McGuckin, congratulated the owners on their determination.  “The owners have not taken a distribution for years, so that they could save up and make this major improvement to their land block.  I know that access to the marae was also greatly in their minds, and I congratulate them on what they have achieved.  We were delighted to manage this project to allow the people to connect with their whenua and marae again,” she says.

Owners thanked

On the day of the opening of the drift deck, block owners and whānau of the marae gathered at side of the stream.  Kaumātua and Marae Trustee Pat Tupe led the karakia and ceremony and gave heartfelt thanks to the owners of Rangitoto Tuhua.  “We have waited a long time for this and I and all the people who whakapapa to the marae thank the owners for their foresight and dedication over the years it took to make this happen,” he said.

The owners then crossed the drift deck and made a hīkoi to the marae and then on to the land block.  Owner Dardi Metekingi-Mato was delighted to see the land for the first time and says she was impressed with the work of the current lessee.  “We could see that this lessee has been putting back into the land.  We want lessees who will invest in the land and make decisions that are good for the future of the land.  By being good for the lessee, the drift deck is good for the sustainable future of our block.”

Ross Richards, the lessee since 2007, says he lost a quad bike when the river was in flood and was lucky to swim to safety last year, so the drift deck will make a huge difference to access.  “It’s also much better for the stream itself, keeping stock out of the water when we move them, and letting fish travel through the structure.”

Marae access

Access also gives the possibility of new life for a historical marae and wharepuni (wharenui).

Known as Hinemihi, the wharepuni was built in1899 and with its placement at Petania links two iwi, Maniapoto with the land, and Tūwharetoa with the building.  It is 33 feet long, and was originally part of a 99 foot wharepuni that was divided between three brothers.

Being able to finally walk to the marae was a moving experience for the people who had been separated from it for so long.  Donna Tuwhangai, a rangitahi on the hīkoi said that now the whānau have access, her dream is to help restore the marae and see the people come back at last.