Future of reserve still undecided

A view of the beach at Omaui. The settlement's Mokomoko Road Reserve is owned by the Invercargill...
A view of the beach at Omaui. The settlement's Mokomoko Road Reserve is owned by the Invercargill City Council, but disposal of the land is proposed. Photo: Matthew Rosenberg
More than six months after consultation ended, the future of a Southland reserve with special significance to Māori remains unknown.

Last October, the Invercargill City Council completed a public notification process for two potential land disposals — Mokomoko Road Reserve and Awarua Bay Road Reserves.

The latter was discussed at a February meeting where it was decided to progress its sale, but Mokomoko Road Reserve is yet to be brought to the council table.

The organisation says it is waiting on additional information before it can progress.

Te Rūnanga o Awarua submitted to the council regarding both areas, calling it out for poor treatment of land at the Mokomoko Road Reserve.

Rūnanga kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga wrote that the significance of Omaui — where the reserve was situated — could not be understated, and expressed concern over exposed archaeology.

The area was known as a place of burial, and great caution needed to be taken because of the risk of desecrating unknown urupā (burial ground).

"It is wāhi tupuna [a place important to Māori], it may or may not contain urupā, but given its close proximity to known ones it should be considered wāhi motuhake [special land]."

Mr Whaanga also expressed disappointment the council had not paid heed to concerns raised previously.

"The area has been poorly treated in terms of its protection from planning and statutory process," he said.

"Sections to the west of the Mokomoko are continually damaged, and archaeology exposed when iwi have informed council of the importance of the sites."

Mr Whaanga said the rūnanga aspired to have whenua at Omaui, and a place to reconnect through the land.

"The revocation of land has been described as of little recreational or environmental value, but to Te Rūnanga o Awarua the land is culturally extremely important."

Invercargill City Council group manager community spaces and places Rex Capil said the submission from the rūnanga highlighting the site’s cultural significance had been noted.

There was further opportunity for the council to directly work through the points with the rūnanga, he said.

Council manager parks and recreation Caroline Rain previously said the process for Mokomoko Road Reserve was scheduled to take place in April.

The two public notification processes for potential land disposal ended on October 27, she said.

Regarding the Awarua Bay Road Reserves, the council intended to sell the blocks simultaneously, as all four were too small to build on.

Revocation of reserve status on two of the blocks was with the Minister of Conservation for sign-off.

 - LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.