Maori Go To Court Over Levin Earthworks

Local Maori are challenging unconsented earthworks by Horowhenua District Council at Kowhai Park Recreational Reserve in Levin.

The legal challenge is on the grounds the work extends across waahi tapu and related sites of significance.

In an affidavit to the Environment Court, Vivienne Taueki of MuaUpoko hapu Ngati Tamarangi said the pipeline construction at Queen Street drain should be prohibited until the council has obtained a resource consent and complied with statutes and regulations affecting sites of significance to Maori.

She said, “The excavation of earth – and the laying of about 55 metres of large concrete drain pipes – [is] causing destruction, harm and modification all to accomplish discharge(s) of storm water and other liquids into Lake Horowhenua via the drain commonly known as the Queen Street Drain.”

‘One of the worst polluted lakes’

Lake Horowhenua — already one of the ‘most polluted’ lakes in NZ

Lake Horowhenua is recognised by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) as being one of the worst polluted lakes, and also one of the lakes with the worst eutrophication in all of New Zealand, mainly caused by storm water run-off.

The council’s lawyers said Ms Taueki’s application would be opposed on the grounds it, “seeks to hinder works that (the) Council wishes to carry out promptly.”

The council said any damming, diversion or discharge of water linked to the works is a permitted activity, so a resource consent is not required.

Council also denies Kowhai Park is an archaeological site or that an archaeological authority is required for, “filling in the drain-, that is, placing fill material around the pipe placed in the drain.”

Historic Places decision

Ms Taueki said in 2007 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) decided to decline council’s application to destroy, damage or modify the Kowhai Park site due to cultural significance identified by Ngati Tamarangi. She said surely major earthworks was a modification.

She has “personally” informed the council “several times” the site is an area of significance, she says but HDC has failed to list significant sites. I have been involved with four attempts by the HDC to damage, destroy, modify or remove the Kowhai Park site.

I know of nothing that could have happened to alter the cultural significance of the site in the intervening years, yet the council has made further efforts to destroy the site.”

The council contracted Tatana Contracting Ltd to do the work. They were contracted by Lake Horowhenua Trustees contracted to do recent unconsented major storm water earthworks at Lake Horowhenua.

The council plans to study options for storm water discharged to Lake Horowhenua in the latest 20 Year Plan.

The work was halted in 2007, leaving the excavation fenced off and incomplete. The whole environs of Lake Horowhenua is rich in Maori and settler history. Muaupoko were the tangata whenua of the region from the late seventeenth century.
Ngati Tamarangi, one of the six remaining hapu of Muaupoko, may have oral traditions in relation to the exact spot and it would be good if they were prepared to share these. Another source is Leslie Adkin, Horowhenua, especially his map facing page 160.

The land of Kowhai Park would have been on the original shoreline before the lake was partially drained in the 1920s, exposing at least a chain of lake bed that is recognised as part of Muaupoko’s ownership of Waipunahau (Lake Horowhenua). The park was at the western end of Levin Village Settlement Block, bought by the Crown in 1887. It would be interesting to know whether the point at issue was lakebed or part of the Village Settlement.

Another boundary that crosses the spot was the original southern boundary of land ceded to Muaupoko by Te Whatanui, but enlarged in 1872 by the Land Court. The excavation is very close to the crossing point of two pathways leading to canoe-landing points on the shore.

What archaeological excavation in the vicinity might reveal is of course unknown.
Unfortunately, Lake Horowhenua is not fed by any significant surface streams. Ms Taueki clearly feels that stormwater would not enhance the lake’s water quality.

Anthony Dreaver

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