Oct. 1, 2019, 3:25 p.m.
From the halls of the United Nations in New York to the river mouth of the Wairoa in Ahipara, the message is clear, it is time to respect the power of nature.
Long before any homes were built or golf course developed, the Wairoa river mouth moved naturally and unhindered up and down Te Oneroa-ā-Tōhē. For tangata whenua it is the portal onto the beach for the spirits making their final journey to Te Rerenga Wairua.
At a recent community meeting, however, it was proposed to dig a trench to move the river’s new path due to the threat of erosion to a number of coastal properties. Tangata whenua strongly opposed the move, saying the river has its own mana and should be allowed to flow as it pleases.
John Paitai (Te Rarawa) is a local kaumatua from Roma Marae. Recently retired from teaching, Paitai was the principal at Bay of Islands College and has worked and lived in the Te Hiku region for most of his life. He knows the history of the river and while he has deep sympathy for those people whose properties were under threat, some of which are family and dear friends, he says it is not for mankind to dictate to nature what it should do.
“Ahakoa e tino aroha ana au ki a rātou, ahakoa tēnā, e kore e taea te ira tāngata te karo te rere o tēnei wai, koinā tōku whakaaro, nā te mahi o Tawhirimātea, te mahi o Tangaroa me Papatūānuku ka haere tēnei, ka whai tēnei awa ki tōnā ake ara.”
He also said years ago work to divert the river mouth had already been done by the Council and ultimately proved to be a waste of time “Nā, i ngā tau kua pau hipa nei koinā te mahi o ngā, o te Kaunihera. Engari, ahakoa tā rātou mahi, nā te nanakia tēnei awa i whai tōnā ara anō ki kōnei.”