September 23, 2023

Whareroa Marae Expresses Disappointment as Heavy Industry Remains in Proximity, Impacting Community Health

Whareroa Marae, located in Tauranga, New Zealand, has expressed deep disappointment as the heavy industry surrounding it will not be relocated, potentially continuing to negatively impact the health of its community. The marae, established in 1873, has witnessed the industrial area of Mount Maunganui grow around it over the years. Concerned about the pollutants affecting its people, the marae raised the issue with the Tauranga City Council (TCC) and Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) in 2020, advocating for a managed retreat of heavy industry from the area.

An advisory group was formed, and an investigation into the possibility of relocating heavy industry from Totara Street commenced. In the same year, the marae set a 10-year deadline for the government to remove heavy industry from the vicinity. However, recent discussions at a Tauranga City Council meeting revealed that there is currently no feasible pathway for relocation. Many industrial activities in the area have existing user rights under the Resource Management Act, making it difficult to enforce a relocation.

Whareroa Marae’s environment spokesperson, Joel Ngātuere, expressed disappointment at the news, highlighting the irony that industries have existing land use rights while the longstanding community has been given no rights. The marae and its community suffer from air pollution, leading to health issues such as asthma, migraines, nausea, and mental health impacts. The elderly and children, the most vulnerable demographics, make up a significant portion of the community, further exacerbating the concern. The air above the industrial zone and marae was declared a polluted airshed in 2019, and public health authorities have called for immediate action to address the air pollution problem.

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Clear the Air Mount Maunganui, an environmental trust, supports the marae’s position and advocates for the wider community. They emphasize the importance of considering the broader impacts on residents, communities, and schools. While they acknowledge the importance of certain industries, they believe that heavy industries should operate with best practices to mitigate pollution and harm to the environment and local people.

Whareroa Marae intends to continue pressing the council and government for action. They hope that mechanisms will be put in place to review the suitability of existing industries when they apply for new resource consents. While rezoning under the city plan may constrain future activities, it will not affect those protected by existing use rights. The Tauranga City Council and BOPRC are exploring future options and working towards achieving air quality standards that would classify the airshed as non-polluted in the coming decade.

The commission overseeing the matter aims to ensure that ongoing planning projects consider mechanisms to manage industrial land use effectively. The goal is to achieve the aspirations of Whareroa marae, mana whenua, and the wider community, and explore the possibility of transitioning away from emitting industries over time.