The public have stumped up millions for a boat shed – but the boat is already housed in Lower Hutt

Now let's find a boat to store here.

Things are looking up for the country’s tax and rate payers, who coughed up a few million bucks for an opulent canoe kennel in the capital.

The new structure has a good chance of actually housing the canoe as its planners intended. Hooray.

There had been some doubt about this, because one bunch of Maori reckon the canoe’s rightful place is in its posh new shed on the Wellington waterfront, but another bunch has been keeping it safe and sound in a museum out in Lower Hutt, and looked likely to ensure it stayed there.

It doesn’t much matter which bunch of Maori happen to be right with their claims and counter claims.

The fact is that when it came to the grand opening, the canoe that was supposed to be there wasn’t there.

Taxpayers are entitled to be furious with the buggers who stumped up more than half the cost of the $11.5 million structure at the centre of this farce.

The Wellington City Council committed $1 million and other funding came from the Government ($7 million), Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, Wellington Tenths Trust, and the Palmerston North Māori Reserve Trust.

The taxpayers provided the lion’s share even though John Key and Bill English keep banging on about the need to keep a tight rein on public spending.

Even a half-wit should be be able to see there are more worthy programmes for $7 million than a shed for a boat that already is being housed, safe and sound, in a museum.

A bit of background: the “wharewaka” in Wellington will be the centrepiece of Wellington’s Rugby World Cup 2011 ‘fan zone’.

City Councillors voted, after public consultation, to spend $100,000 in 2010/11 and $50,000 in 2011/12 as part of the Annual Plan to create “the fan village” around the Wharewaka, which will be leased for the duration of the tournament.

Leased? A good question to ask is who will pocket the rental money.

But the big thing is that when it came to the grand opening, the ceremonial canoe that was supposed to be there happened to be somewhere else. A bit like the ships in the NZ Navy, come to think of it.

This news would have been a bit hoot in Auckland, where the Herald told its readers –

Wellington’s $11.5 million Wharewaka o Poneke is due to open this Sunday – however it will be without the waka it was built to house.

The waka Te Raukura – known as “Wellington’s Waka” – is at the centre of a disagreement between the Wellington City Council, Te Wharewaka O Poneke Charitable Trust and Te Runanganui o Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o Te Ika a Maui Association.

Te Raukura was commissioned and paid for by the council in 1990, however the vessel suffered water damage to the hull and was temporarily moved to Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt for restoration.

The council said the waka was to be returned on completion of the new Wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront, but negotiations have broken down.

Alf is pleased to report that things are being done The Maori Way, which means talking, and Te Wharewaka O Poneke Charitable Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love says discussions have been under way for the past couple of months.

They were successful negotiations, it had seemed, because he reckons an agreement was reached in early January. The waka had been expected to be returned for the ceremony, he said.

“This accord has now been reneged upon,” Sir Ngatata said. “Undertakings given at a meeting facilitated by Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace in late 2010 have also now been swept away.

“It is unfortunate that earlier commitments and undertakings are not being honoured.”

Heading the mob on the other side of this stoush is Waiwhetu Maori leader Kara Puketapu (who, like Ngatata Love, once headed the Ministry of Maori Affairs, or Maori Development, or whatever it’s called these days).

He has spoken publicly for the first time over the brouhaha and says his people would “absolutely” hand over the waka, Te Raukura.

The waka trustees will meet today and a public announcement is expected within days.

“The wakas will always be shared between the two cities because they’re part of the harbour,” Dr Puketapu said.

“But first things first – get the house in good shape culturally and I think some good will come from it. We have a culture of doing things right.”

Ah, but the Wellington City Council won’t necessarily play the same game for much longer, and while it is persisting with talks to secure the waka’s return, mayor Celia Wade-Brown said last night that legal action remained an option.

“Negotiation is our first priority but I don’t rule anything out.”

Today’s report at Stuff explains that the waka was commissioned by the city council in 1989 and built with $100,000 of ratepayers’ money.

However, when asked who owned it, Dr Puketapu said it belonged to “the people of the harbour”.

He hit out at the council for “failing in its duty of care” when the waka was under council stewardship. It was sent back to the Waiwhetu runanga for $80,000 worth of ratepayer-funded repairs in 2006 after its hull cracked.

It has not been returned and is now in the runanga’s Te Maori Museum in Lower Hutt, along with its Hutt Valley sister waka.

Puketapu disputes claims there had been an expectation that the Wellington waka would be returned once repairs were completed.

“That expectation was never discussed. Certainly there were responsibilities that we undertook at a cost. There was a collaboration to get them back here, to get them back in order, and we paid to do that.”

Waiwhetu Maori had invested well over $1 million to care for the two waka and house them in its newly built cultural centre, he said.

“The waka belongs to the people of the harbour. You’re living here, aren’t you? The Hutt people are living here, aren’t they?

“Well … everybody’s got to care for the harbour. It belongs to everybody around the harbour.”

Former Lower Hutt mayor Glen Evans has chipped in to say Maori were withholding the waka because they feared the original purpose of the waka agreement had been lost and that it would end up as a museum piece in private ownership.

Such ownership was never part of the original deal, he said.

“We assumed there would be goodwill. It’s intended to be in Wellington – no question. [But] I think they should be released only when there is a proper document in place that actually cements what was the intention.”

Oh, but the waka wasn’t the only thing missing from the opening ceremony.

The hoi polloi who stumped up that money werent there, either.

Before the big event they were advised –

Sunday’s dawn ceremony is for invited guests but anyone can watch it live on the big screen at Odlins Plaza (by the former Free Ambulance building) from 4.00am. The whare is not named beforehand, as it is asked to reveal itself as part of the opening ceremony

The whare was asked to reveal itself as part of the opening ceremony? What sort of bollocks is this?

But come to think of it, Alf would not have wanted to be at the ceremony, even if it had it been held 100 metres away from his home in Eketahuna, because it was one of those crack-of-dawn jobs. Bugger that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: