Background to the Kaituna claim

A handful of slimy algae and lake weed being pulled out of Lake Rotoiti.Lake Rotorua in the central North Island is being polluted. It is turning a brilliant green as algae and weed take over. The lake and its environs are important to the country because people use them for fishing, boating, and swimming. They are also a popular place for tourists. The lake is part of a water system which includes Lake Rotorua, Lake Rotoiti, the Kaituna River, and the Maketu Estuary.

The most obvious source of pollution is the effluent from the Rotorua city sew-age works, though fertilisers, animal droppings, and run-off after heavy rain also contribute to the pollution.

The Bay of Plenty Catchment Commission, along with the Rotorua District Council and the Ministry of Works, has gained approval to implement the Kaituna River major scheme. The scheme is estimated to cost $11 million to $12 million.

The aim of this scheme is to improve the pollution problem and it includes building a pipeline so that the effluent from the Rotorua sewage works will be piped directly into the Kaituna River instead of the lake.

The Kaituna scheme is not only about building the pipeline - it is also about controlling floods, fencing off watercourses from stock, and retiring from farming use land that is close to the lake so that any run-off does not reach the water.

The Government has approved a subsidy for the scheme. For every dollar the Rotorua ratepayers raise, the Government will give them $7. (This subsidy is dependent on the whole scheme being implemented.) Without the subsidy, the ratepayers cannot afford the scheme.

The pipeline was first proposed by the Ministry of Works in the early 1960s. Both the Rotorua District Council and the Bay of Plenty Catchment Commission have looked at other ways of getting rid of the effluent, but the Ministry of Works insists that the pipeline is the best idea and has organised the subsidy for it.

The Kaituna Claim

In 1978, members of Ngati Pikiao filed a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal asking that the proposal to build the pipeline be stopped because it transferred the pollution process into their territory and was objectionable on medical, social, cultural, and spiritual grounds.

The Evidence

The Claim and the Claimant : Ngati Pikiao are a sub-tribe of Te Arawa. Te Arawa is a confederation of tribes descended from the crew of the Arawa waka, which landed at Maketu over 1000 years ago. Ngati Pikiao live beside the northern shores of Lake Rotoiti and the upper reaches of the Kaituna River.

Medical Grounds

Ngati Pikiao present evidence to show that pumping even treated effluent into the river would increase the

chances of the river and estuary being contaminated by viruses harmful to man.

Social Grounds

Ngati Pikiao point out that most people feel revulsion about human waste and that no one would use the river for swimming or fishing if they knew that effluent was being pumped into it.

Spiritual and Cultural Grounds

Ngati Pikiao make their strongest protest on spiritual and cultural grounds. To mix water that has been contaminated by human waste with water used for gathering food is deeply objection-able on these grounds. Māori custom requires water used for the preparation of food to be kept strictly separate from water used for other purposes.

The Kaituna River and the Maketu Estuary have long been an important source of food for Ngati Pikiao. Even the name 'Kaituna' tells you of its importance. 'Kai' means food and 'tuna' means eel. If the pipeline is built, the elders of the tribe will have no choice but to declare the river tapu, and therefore out of bounds.

The tapu will also apply to any vegetation that has contact with the water, either through splashing or through flooding. A tapu will create a great economic loss for Ngati Pikiao, because they will not be able to fish in the river or even collect plants from the river banks for making medicines and for weaving and dyeing. Burial caves lining the river will also not be able to be reached. Ngati Pikiao will suffer a loss of tribal mana.

Other Evidence

Research into biological and chemical treatment of effluent has progressed a long way in recent years. Based on this new research, it is now possible to build an alternative treatment plant at Rotorua for about $9.5 million. In contrast, the pipeline project, plus an extension to the Rotorua treatment plant, will cost just under $17 million.

The Commission for the Environment wants research to be carried out into the possi-bility of disposing of Rotorua's effluent on land. Land disposal methods have also been improved in recent years.

Lake Rotorua does not exist on its own. It is part of a connected series of waterways that affect each other. If Lake Rotorua deteriorates, so will Lake Rotoiti, the Kaituna River, and the Maketu Estuary. All these waterways are important assets for the country.

Next: Decisions and Recommendations

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