Back in the early 1980s, Mark’s late mother Mimosa was an active supporter of the groups lobbying for clean water in this area of ours. At the time, there were extended hearings into the establishment of the gas to gasoline plant at Motonui – with plans to pipe waste out to sea – and a claim under the Waitangi Treaty regarding discharging of waste to water. In good country-woman style, she would bake food to share at these hearings and on many days she would pack her lunch to head down and sit in support of those speaking out to protect our water.
As can be seen from the photo of all the signage we have now, the need to protect our water has never been greater in this time when “clean and green” is looking increasingly like The Great New Zealand Myth.
I have huge respect for those who continue to battle these issues. Back in the 1980s, visual activist Fiona Clark, did a haunting series of portraits of local kuia (senior Maori women, informally referred to as aunties) in their traditional coastal kaimoana locations (kaimoana – food of the sea). Thirty five years on, she remains resolutely committed to the cause.
To see Fiona and two others being pursued relentlessly by our Taranaki Regional Council for costs related to a consent hearing on discharge of waste to waters around Waitara makes me rage at the injustice. Fiona, Robbie Taylor (son of the hugely respected, late kaumatua, Aila Taylor who led the Waitangi claim back in 1982) and Pikikore Moore are being held personally liable for costs, rather than the group for whom they signed. Friends of Waitara River traces its origins back to those activists of the early 1980s but lacked legal status. By the time the hearing was held, the group was an incorporated society, but when the submission was lodged, they were not. Because of those intervening weeks, the Taranaki Regional Council decided to hold them personally responsible and the law upheld this technicality.
Being right in law does not mean that such action is fair, just or ethical. Nor did that legal process take into account any of the other failures of process on the part of the Council. In fact even the amount demanded remains a mystery but is likely to be in the mid twenty thousand dollars range.
I am departing from my usual gardening posts to ask New Zealand readers to consider donating a few dollars to the Give A Little page raising money to pay the Council. You just need your credit card to hand.
While the very thought of paying money to an organisation I regard as vindictive (and many other words I cannot use publicly) sticks in my craw, that doesn’t help the three people in the firing line. They need help.
Taranaki Regional Council must be really proud of leading the charge – ensuring that environmental groups or individuals can not afford to become involved in democratic processes under the Resource Management Act. Or indeed the Official Information Act. They have set an important precedent for this area and others and the best way to challenge this precedent is to show them clearly that there is great disquiet at what they have done.