A planned golf course in rural Horowhenua has been given permission to build on public reserve land, with the loss offset with better access to the rest of the reserve and nearby beach.
The revelation was made at the first day of a resource consent hearing for the proposed Douglas Links Golf Course on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s hearing was for commissioners to hear evidence about applications to Horizons Regional Council for environmental consents for a proposed 18-hole links course Xero co-founder Hamish Edwards wants to build adjacent to the Ōhau River.
He told the hearing he named the proposed course as a tribute to his father, but reiterated the land was still very much Ōhau.
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He wanted the course to reflect the values of the land and for iwi and hapū to inform that reflection.
The course would have a caddie program, with caddies able to talk about the history of the land and area, mirroring the practice at some overseas courses, Edwards said.
Grenadier had a project under way to find out more about the cultural significance of the land to ensure everyone involved was clear on its significance, he said.
Grenadier’s legal counsel John Maassen told the Horowhenua District Council hearing decided in October 2021 to grant some resource consents.
That consent process was not publicly notified.
According to the council’s consent decision, which was provided to the hearing, parts of the 4th, 16th and 17th holes would be located within the reserve.
The affected area is a small part of the reserve, not easily accessed by the public due to the presence of lupine and gorse, with the nearest public vehicle access 5.8 kilometers north at Hokio Beach.
Maassen said Grenadier had agreed to construct a public route to the beach so the public had easier access to the coast and rest of the reserve.
The hearing commissioners focused on a few key issues on Tuesday: relationships and consultation with affected iwi and hapū, the potential for archaeological finds and the value of the environment.
Former PGA Tour golfer Phillip Tataurangi (Kahungunu ki Rangitāne and Ngāti Kikopiri) did a consultation for Grenadier on cultural values.
Ngāti Kikopiri has its marae on the same road as the land the course would be built on.
Consultation had differed between hapū and iwi in the area, with the Covid-19 pandemic making things harder, Tataurangi said.
Much had been done with Ngāti Kikopiri as they were the closest to the proposed course, while work was being done with Muaūpoko on a memorandum of understanding.
Plans for further engagement with Ngāti Tukorehe were on hold until after the consent process, he said.
Robert Kuiti and Dennis Paku, both members of the Kikopiri marae committee, spoke about their engagement with Grenadier.
Kuiti said Ngāti Kikopiri made it clear it wanted open and collaborative dialogue involving all affected iwi and hapū.
Paku said it was important for all iwi and hapū to unite through the process.
Many questions from commissioners focused on the proposed location of the 14th hole, near the mouth of the Ōhau River.
Landscape architect Frank Boffa said the entire proposed course area was of high natural quality, but the 14th hole was not in as good condition due to people tearing it up with vehicles.
Good management could include removing tress and putting in other species in other places, as well as improving the sand dunes, which had been impacted by motorcycles and erosion.
“We are not losing natural character …[Grenadier] is changing it. ”
But the 14th hole would be improved by development, he said.
Archaeologist Mary O’Keeffe said data collected while working on the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway helped her put together a model of what may be found on the proposed course land.
There would almost certainly be shell middens, as Māori would have likely traveled to the area to take advantage of the abundance of kai moana and flax, but middens were of little value due to how common they were.
She was, however, interested to know if there was evidence of vegetable gardens in the area.
She had not found any along the Kāpiti and Horowhenua coast, making it almost the only coastal place in the country without it.
There were also records of people living at Tirotiro Whetū, a kainga near the Ōhau River, on a seasonal basis.
While a surveyor would be able to give better data, there was a possibility Tirotiro Whetū was located further south given the river mouth had moved over time, O’Keefe said.
The hearing continues on Wednesday with evidence from multiple iwi and hapū.