Alf was tempted, at first blush, to see something ominous in the goings-on near Maketu, where a Maori company has ordered a beachside community to bugger off.
This – surely – will be happening up and down the country if the Government buckles and gives the seabed and foreshore back to the Maori who lay claim to them.
The mollifying element in the Little Waihi evictions is that Pakeha and Maori alike are being given the boot.
Or some of them are. Older ones can stay on.
The Herald reports the matter today –
A community in an idyllic coastal spot has been told it must leave within a year, abandoning baches which have stood on the site for 65 years.
At least 29 homeowners in Little Waihi, to the east of Tauranga near Maketu in the Bay of Plenty, have had their yearly lease terminated by the commercial arm of the Arawa iwi, which owns the land. More than 120 people will be affected.
Many of the baches skirting the estuary are owned by beneficiaries and pensioners, who say they will have nowhere else to live.
Actually, the evicted people will have plenty of other places to live, if they bother to look.
That’s not really the point, of course, but the Weekend Herald is intent on tugging at our heartstrings:
Emotions run deep – residents the Weekend Herald spoke to said they would burn their homes to the ground rather than let Te Arawa Management take them over.
This should take care of their accommodation problem, come to think of it.
Burn down the houses, get arrested for arson and finish up in the slammer.
That’s not the only solution to the matter of re-housing.
Some dislocated residents – or rather, one of them – is thinking of emigrating.
Barbara Kiri did $15,000 of work on her bach over summer as she planned to retire in Little Waihi in July.
Her father, Alan Wilson, built one of the original four baches in 1945.
“He put in the retaining walls, built the road and supported Te Arawa.”
Ms Kiri’s daughter Jolene Kiri tearfully told the Weekend Herald she had hoped her children would learn to swim and fish in the estuary as she did.
“If this happens and we lose the house … I will become an Australian citizen and never set foot back in New Zealand again.
“I will tear up my passport … that’s how strongly I feel.”
But what’s the reason for giving the residents the old heave-ho?
The company said it was removing the residents because their poor wastewater systems were causing serious environmental damage to the estuary.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council plans to build a modern sewage system next year at the earliest, but the settlement uses septic tanks.
This is something Alf can understand.
He will never be driven to join the greenies, but he is bothered by the way we pollute our waterways and oceans.
No, we aren’t making a mess of things as spectacularly as BP is doing in the Gulf of Mexico. But the stuff we toss down drains that finishes up in the ocean is a major environmental challenge.
So if Alf became PM – he hasn’t lost this ambition, his Eketahuna constituents will be thrilled to know – he would apply the Little Waihi solution to the issue.
He would kick people out of their houses wherever wastewater, sewage and so on threaten the environment.
Mind you, he has to think this through. The logical extension of this idea might be that none of us can live in houses any more, although as PM Alf would ensure he is made an exception to the rule.
Not only the residents of Small Waihi would then be wailing about having nowhere to live. The whole bloody country would be wailing.
But let’s get back to the Coromandel.
First, there’s the matter of age discrimination.
The trust’s termination of leases has divided the community, as a few elderly residents will be able to stay.
“What are the criteria here?” asked one resident. “It seems as though they’ve just allowed the elderly to stay in the hope they’ll soon pass away.”
Then there’s the matter of the eviction of those who don’t qualify as older people.
Residents said they signed a “flimsy” licence to occupy, but feel the eviction came without notice or a clear reason, and under severe terms.
It would uproot Maori and Pakeha who have called the estuary home for four generations.
Jackaileen Elsworth, a second-generation resident, said: “My grandchildren’s placenta is planted in the soil here. That means everything … because this is their roots.”
This Jackaileen person – whose parents presumably had spelling difficulties – works part-time and says her only money is in her house.
Alf presumes she means this money is wrapped up in the value of the real estate, rather than in an envelope hidden under the mattress.
If Te Arawa forced her to leave her home next April, she would burn it. “I’d far sooner help rectify the environmental problem or pay more rates. But under the current circumstances, my house would be an exercise for the Maketu Volunteer Fire Brigade.”
This raises a question about the consequences of burning the place down to try to secure a prison bed.
Maybe if it is her house, she can’t be done for arson.
Further down in the story, Alf learned that few residents expect to salvage their homes.
Buildings can be moved with the trust’s permission, but “most baches were too old to shift.”
A lawyer who specialises in Maori land issues told the newspaper the iwi was entitled to any buildings that could not be removed.
Who owns what obviously needs clarifying.
Trouble is, Te Arawa director Roku Mihinui is not saying much in response to Weekend Herald questions.
He said he could not comment until he had spoken directly with the community (which means he could, but he wouldn’t).
He said the council had been trying to rectify the wastewater problems for five years, and residents knew their baches were damaging the estuary.
The Weekend Herald reports a Te Arawa source as saying the residents are technically squatters, and the council is concerned Little Waihi is becoming a run-down, shoddy settlement.
The source said the council and trust had turned a blind eye to Little Waihi.
They can no longer ignore the illegal structures and environmental and social problems.
Or so they say. Obviously they could continue to ignore those things. They have chosen not to.
The big problem is their PR has been found wanting.
Homeowners felt the lack of consultation from Te Arawa Management was inexcusable.
They knew they could be removed eventually – most were on one-year licences – but in a community meeting held by the trust last year it was not mentioned that licences to occupy would be terminated.
The newspaper includes the case of a Rachael Thomas in its story.
She said that legally her house “didn’t exist”. It was constructed on reserve land and she did not have a letterbox number. She paid monthly rates to the iwi, and signed a licence to occupy, for roughly $1000 a year.
She moved to the settlement with her parents when she was one, and has vivid recollections of horse-riding, fishing for flounder, and bathing in the estuary. She cannot imagine living anywhere else.
Her family are part of Te Arawa. “This I am ashamed to say, if this is how they treat their people.”
To the contrary, Alf takes comfort from learning that Maori and Pakeha alike are being kicked out but older people can remain.
Race discrimination appals him. Age discrimination is fine, so long as it is exercised, in favour of his age group.