New Zealand Parliament.

Volume 706, Week 21 - Wednesday, 1 July 2015

 Speech from Parliamentary Business Hansard debate.  Published 1 July 2015


EUGENIE SAGE (Green): I thank the Minister for Land Information. It is always much appreciated when the actual Minister is in the chair and able to answer questions. Yes, this is a bill that has been around for a long time, but in my short call I would like to talk a bit about Supplementary Order Paper 206, which is in Mr Williamson’s name. That Supplementary Order Paper is really important because it deletes provisions that the Primary Production Committee recommended be inserted. Those provisions would have allowed the Far North District Council to privatise the public esplanade reserve at Walls Bay in Ōpua. That would have allowed Mr Schmuck and his boatyard to take over much of the reserve for commercial boat building. It has certainly been a long-running saga, which the Hon Damien O’Connor spoke about in an earlier reading. It has been in and out of councils, the Department of Conservation, and the court, and it has been to the Ombudsman. That saga has been largely because Mr Schmuck has wanted not just the right to move boats up and down the slipway in the reserve but also the right to, effectively, monopolise it for his boatbuilding business by doing waterblasting, by repairing boats there, and by generally using the reserve as part of his business.

So the Green Party has stood alongside members of the community in seeking to protect the esplanade reserve and public access to it. These esplanade reserves are important as part of the concept of the Queen’s Chain and ensuring that there is public access along rivers, lakes, and the coast. The Walls Bay Esplanade Reserve at Ōpua is an important part of the Bay of Islands walkway. There has been quite a lot of concern in the community at Mr Schmuck’s efforts to privatise it. I think that in one of the local media stories I saw, one neighbour pointed out that it is very difficult for people to go picnicking in the reserve if there is the waterblasting of a boat occurring alongside. It makes the whole area quite unattractive for public use. We were really concerned by these clauses being inserted in the bill because, potentially, they were setting a precedent for other business operators to seek to take over public lands, and esplanade reserve, and use those for their businesses. Maiki Marks, in her advocacy, called it a “modern-day land grab”.

So we are very pleased that the Supplementary Order Paper has been tabled and that it does delete these clauses from the bill. Certainly, the Department of Conservation was prepared to grant easements to allow boats to move across the slipway, but Mr Schmuck seems to have been quite litigious, and not been content with that, and wanted to challenge that at every opportunity. I think now we have the Mayor of the Far North District Council, the Hon John Carter, seeking to assist Mr Schmuck to get consents from the district council. I am not clear whether those have been granted, but it seems that it was his advocacy at the select committee that resulted in the clauses being included in the first place, so we are very pleased with the Supplementary Order Paper that removes them from the bill. 

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