Photo: John Borren
Passions aroused by the preparation of Motiti Island's first District Plan has led to a group of dissidents threatening to "govern this land" if proof of purchase could not be provided by "pretended title holders".
The small public statement published in the Bay of Plenty Times followed a hui held on September 1 - the day after a 10-day Environment Court appeal finished hearing evidence on appeals against the plan.
Preparation of the plan by the Department of Internal Affairs, which administers the island, has dragged on for eight years. The final hurdle was the potentially sensitive issue of how to deal with the island's Hapu Management Plan.
The island has about 30 permanent residents, mainly Maori, with hundreds more having ancestral and cultural connections.
And although the public statement was understood to represent the feelings of a small group of dissidents, the 208 submissions received five years ago on the original draft plan included 95 with Maori sovereignty sentiments.
Forty-six signed a pre-prepared submission statement proclaiming the "Divinely Decreed Guardianship of indigenous people in their homelands". It said there that tangata whenua who knew Motiti best were entitled to exercise their divine authority over the whole of Motiti Island's foreshore and seabeds.
Other submissions talked about the plan being of no benefit to Motiti, that all decisions by the Government were invalid and that Motiti's tino rangitiratanga rested with the island's descendants as an independent state.
The Bay of Plenty Times spoke to a woman who answered the phone number listed on the notice. She asked not be named in the story.
When told that the notice was provoking a public reaction, she said that was the purpose of putting in it the paper. She said they had never been happy because the whole process, including land issues highlighted by the first conference of the Maori National Council in 1903, had not worked for the people of Motiti.
In the same way as the District Plan process wanted deadlines, they had given notice of their concerns and deadlines.
"This is the next step because we are being left out of a lot of decision making." She said the grounding of the Rena on their reef had been a catalyst for many of the things that had happened on Motiti lately.
"This is our homeland and we have been feeling extremely vulnerable."
Asked what land titles the notice was referring to, whether it was the island's European fee simple or multiple-owned Maori land titles, she replied: "We are not about dividing our land or defining it in different ways ... for good health the body needs to be whole."
She would not say who lodged the advertisement: "To give a name would factionalise ourselves over a land that we care for deeply."
As for the reference to 200 nautical miles beyond Motiti, she said they knew it would stir people up but they had been stirred by all the impositions put on them.
Asked what was meant by "pretended title holders" she said whoever answered with proof of purchase would have their own interpretation of the phrase. They tried to use English in the notice knowing that English always had different connotations to something written in Maori.
One of the island's biggest European title landowners, Vernon Wills, said he would not be responding to the notice. He owns 140 hectares including the airstrip.
"The clear-thinking people of Motiti agree that there should be some sort of planning controls."
He said it was being charged rates that people did not want: "I can't see there will be rating."