Opinion: The Delaware denial

The ramp that is not a ramp

Despite a District Plan rule permitting the activity, its importance to continued safe access to Tasman Bay and despite it being in the best interests of the public, Nelson City Council is pushing ahead in the Environment Court to have the launching of boats at Delaware Bay Wakapuaka Estuary declared to not be a permitted activity. This move has the backing of local iwi, which is very disappointing considering the local community supported them in the establishment of the Tāiapure in Delaware Bay. Like many others, I have served on the management committee for 20 years, which wasn’t even consulted on this move, so take this as a real slap in the face.

The ramp and launch area has been used by the public, both Māori and Pakeha, for over 180 years—since before Nelson City was officially founded—but Nelson City Council now appear in denial of this. In legal submissions to the Environment Court, council argue that no such ramp exists and never has; it is merely an unformed dirt track.

Ironically, an MPI Recreational Fishing Rules sign is erected at the top of the ‘ramp’. These are common at boat ramps throughout New Zealand and were established circa 1980. There is even a Ministry Register of Recreational Regulation Signage, which catalogues the precise location of all signs. According to the official register, the Delaware sign is situated at ‘Maori pa road boat ramp’ (sic), which is the road that leads to the estuary—the self same ‘not ramp’ at issue.

A MPI spokesperson told The Fishing Paper & Hunting News that many of the remote boat ramp signs were erected at the request of local iwi, local landowners or councils. Clearly, the ‘Maori pa road boat ramp’ has been acknowledged as an official ramp by a major government department, with the full knowledge of Nelson City Council, for at least the last 40 years, but Nelson City Council denies it is a ramp!

The government thinks it’s a ramp

What is council’s real agenda?

Mayor Nick Smith is attempting to breathe new life into what has been widely touted as ‘a dysfunctional council’ but early signs suggest he might have his work cut out for him. Nick has been a strong advocate for maintaining access rights, in particular Delaware Bay, and recently tabled a motion to remove the issue from the Environment Court and deal with it in the new Nelson Resource Management Plan, currently before council, to enable public input. This is the appropriate process and was recommended to Nelson City Council by the Delaware Bay Access Group in 2019, after council staff refused all other solutions.

However, despite presenting a strong case, Nick’s motion was lost 10—3, with an overwhelming majority of elected councillors wanting an Environment Court ruling. This should raise some serious questions in the minds of the public, namely: 

– are councillors acting in the best interests of the public?

– is council staff informing councillors fully and accurately? 

– how many councillors can honestly say they have read all the affidavits and submissions before the court? 

– how many councillors (or staff) actually understand what the court case is really about? 

– how many councillors (or staff) are aware of or understand the policies and objectives of the plan that are supposed to guide their decision making? 

– are any councillors (or staff) aware of the national policies and objectives designed to protect and enhance our access rights? 

– should council win in the Environment Court, do councillors understand the dangerous legal precedent this could set (or do they care)? 

– how many councillors are making decisions based on emotion and/or ideology?

– are councillors even aware that the plan identifies Delaware Bay Area for special protection?

– what is the purpose of councillors if they are not there to serve the public?

One only has to look at a couple of the access and safety policies and objectives in the NRMP to realise this council is marching to a different drumbeat. It’s time elected councillors came clean and told us what their real agenda is—and stop putting the public last (if at all).

Help the Delaware Bay Access Group fight for YOUR access rights

Pay your donation to Delaware Bay Access Group Incorporated Society, bank account: 06-0958-0210014-00

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