Te Mata Park – Bruno Chambers

Introduction: Good morning everyone and welcome to the first Duart House History talk for 2010. This morning our speaker is Brian Chambers, who’s going to talk about Te Mata Park; its past, its present and even more interestingly, its future. Brian’s family has perhaps the longest association with this general area of any Pakeha family; they’ve been here since the 1850s; and his great-great-aunt, Hannah Chambers, married Alan McLean in 1870. She was the mistress of this house, Duart, until her death in 1915. So the Chambers family and the McLeans of Duart have always had a close association. I won’t say any more, [chuckles] I’d just like to introduce Brian to you this morning. Thank you.

Brian [Bruno] Chambers: Well thanks for inviting me to come along [and] talk to you today. I’m sure some of you probably know a lot more about the area than I do, but I’ll give you the few gems that I’ve managed to retain in my head over the years.

Probably starting off, I guess I believe that in order to know where we’re going, we need to know where we’ve come from. Te Mata Park was originally gifted by Mason Chambers, John Chambers and Bernard Chambers to the people of Hawke’s Bay in 1927, as a memorial to their father, John Chambers. John Chambers arrived here in 1852, coming out from Australia after spending probably ten years over there; and he moved up from Wellington reasonably quickly to Hawke’s Bay. He was from a Quaker family, and they had fairly strong moral beliefs and religious beliefs, but as strong as religious beliefs can be under a Quaker sort of upbringing. Him [He] and his wife, Margaret … sorry, can’t remember the name; I’m thinking about Margaret Chambers … moved up here in 1852, and they they probably occupied some Maori land around here until it was formalised, and bought from the government in 1858. That had been acquired previously from the Maori by Donald McLean, the Government Land Purchaser for the area. Then they acquired roughly – over the next four years ‘til about 1862 – eighteen thousand acres which encompassed most of the Havelock North area running up from Maraetotara Falls area. And that was a fairly large land holding at the time – I think in 1870 they had twelve thousand sheep running on it, and by 1880 that number had doubled to about twenty-four thousand. The wealth from sheep farming, or from mainly wool at that time, was probably considerable, though they did enter a period of depression in 1886 I think, running through, which tested the family’s resources; they seemed to come through it reasonably well.

So I guess at that time most of the land around here was in bracken and fern. There wasn’t much bush remaining – there were pockets of bush in the valleys – and so it was relatively easy land to clear for farming purposes. Te Mata Park was part of that original land purchase which was originally part of Karanema’s Reserve, and the land was roughly split up into three lots of six thousand acres between the three sons, being Mason, Bernard and John. There was another son, Willie, who was banished to the East Coast for bad activities, [chuckles] I think. He actually married … just a brief note on Willie … he married a gorgeous English girl, who I think managed to put up with him for about three or four years, and then fled back to England where she joined a convent, and [laughter] … in spite of Willie trying to go over and bring her back. [Laughter] But anyway, I digress.

So the land became part of Bernard’s portion; and Bernard was famous for starting the Te Mata Winery and getting that going; that started in 1886, and he was producing some pretty good wine. He was producing it in [on] a fairly large scale by 1912, 1914. And then, of course, the war came along; and he was faced with a sort of budding temperance movement after the war, which was sort of instrumental in him losing a lot of sales within New Zealand. He was exporting wine to Australia at that stage, and by all accounts it was fairly good wine; I mean, some of the vineyards at Te Mata are still on the original land that Bernard was planting grapes on over a hundred years ago. So that was some tribute to Bernard’s foresight.

Probably what wasn’t a tribute to Bernard was the fact that he then went on to sell Te Mata Peak and most of his portion of the land in the mid-nineteen twenties, being somewhat disillusioned, I believe, by the temperance movement and the prospect of the wine business in New Zealand. He also sold Te Mata Peak to W R Richmond from the Wairarapa, who acquired a significant area as well as Te Mata Peak, up here. The two brothers – and I’m only surmising – weren’t too impressed with this, and so they each put in £3,000 and bought that land back from Richmond; and being Scottish, I’m sure he would’ve made a bit of money on the side. [Chuckles]

That was basically the inception of Te Mata Park. In 1927 the three brothers, as a memorial for their father, John, put £3,000 in, bought the land and created the park, and I think in the words of the trust deed it said: ‘The land for all time hereafter be used as public park and recreation ground, which is as it is raised in the trust deed’. The composition of the Board at that time was for one male member [chuckles] – I’m sure all the women here will agree with this – of the Chambers family to be on the Board; three residents of Hawke’s Bay appointed by the Hawke’s Bay County Council, one of whom must either be a chairman or a councillor; two residents of Hawke’s Bay appointed by the Hastings District Council; [Hastings Borough Council at the time] and the mayor or one councillor of the Havelock North Borough Council. Well that’s changed quite a lot now, because with the Amalgamation Act in 1989, Havelock got done out of its representation to some extent and became part of Hastings, so currently we have two Hastings councillors on the Board, and we have five other appointed members of the public on the Board. I’m the Chairman of the Board; my father was the Chairman before me and Jack Chambers was the Chairman before him, and so it goes on, I presume.

So I guess in 1927 there was a large amount of indentured labour, or depression labour, available that was helpful in getting the road established to the top of the Peak, because at that time there was no access to the top; and that was surveyed by my great-grandfather, Thomas Mason, or Mason Chambers. The Redwoods and a lot of the initial plantings within the park were done shortly after that – I think the redwoods were planted in the early 1930s, and a lot of the other plantings, the pines and the gums, were planted around that period too. From counting the rings of the trees that which [have] been chopped down, they seem to be about eighty years old at this stage, so it does mean they were all planted pretty close to the timing of the park; and a lot of that was fairly ad hoc planting, and it’s not planting I or anyone would condone today. It was done [mobile phone rings] probably with the best of intentions, but without a real understanding of landscaping concepts or varieties that might grow properly in Hawke’s Bay. Mind you pine trees do grow very well in Hawke’s Bay, but have probably limited potential [door closing] within the park as a desirable species.

I guess this area was largely devoid of Maori when my ancestors … middle of last century it was … had been significantly cleaned out by the Waikato invasions, and so there wasn’t a large Maori settlement around here. I think the family always had a reasonable rapport with the Maori, and reasonable sort of communication existed pretty much at that time.

The Peak itself is quite sacred to Maori, or old Maori, and it is important to acknowledge that. I spoke to an old Maori kuia, Peggy Nelson, some years ago, and she recalls her grandmother telling her that there were four greenstone boulders brought up from the South Island by a particular tribe from Hawke’s Bay; and they were placed in a perimeter around the Peak at a certain altitude, and above that the area was deemed to be tapu, or sacred. One of those boulders was turned up at the time Jim Joll was doing some subdivision work up the Peak, and I believe that boulder still rests in the Napier Museum, which is probably not the right place for it at all; it should really be returned to whence it came. Bureaucracy has a way of snaring things sometimes, but it’s one thing that should be [returned]. I’m not really the person to do that though.

Just to continue, I guess we are faced with a largely increasing use of the park. It’s quite scary the incremental increase each year that I see happening up there. I think the survey we did two years ago, or we had the Council do, which was done in the middle of February in terms of assessing [cough] car numbers at the Peak, indicated there were six hundred and sixty cars going up there that day; and over a hundred and eighty cars were being registered per hour at peak times. And with the increasing advent of tourist ships and so on within Hawke’s Bay coming to Napier, there’s a huge number of tourist buses that come up and want to access the top. This is becoming a logistical nightmare; it seems to be managed reasonably well by the bus company, Nimon’s, but of course it requires somebody to go ahead with [a] motorbike, close down the road and stop all traffic coming down; and also it means about a twenty-four point turn at the top for [chuckles] some of those buses to be able to point back down the hill.

We on the Board are sort of very aware of some of the issues that are being created by the increased use in the park; some conflicts that exist. I mean the obvious one is the conflict between mountain bikers and pedestrians, and that’s one that we spend a lot of time sort of trying to keep under control, with limited effect I might say. We talked about banning bikes completely from the park, but it’s probably going to be difficult to enforce. We’re possibly looking at ensuring all bikes have to be registered with the Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club to ensure that they have numbers on them, so that anyone who feels that bikes are off-track can take the number of the bike and report it to the club, and we might get some more action that way.

But very recently there was a new track cut by … actually, a member of the Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club; he just went up and took a spade and cut a new track which was fifty or sixty metres … or probably more actually, more like a hundred metres. And I tracked him down and rung [rang] him up and spoke to him, and he said, “Oh, I just thought I’d make the track better, or create what looked like a good place for a track.” And I said, “Well – think if a dozen people like you went up and did that, there’d be tracks everywhere.” And of course once you’ve got a track up there there’s very limited ways of reinstating what was there before, because everybody keeps using the new track. It’s like shortcuts within the park – they have shortcuts for a few people, and then they become main roads for the rest.

Issues today: there’s quite a few issues within the park today. The weeds that we are finding in the park that are becoming more and more invasive every year, is a major concern. That senecio glastifolia which is the pink ragwort, and it originates from South Africa. I’m sure some of you’ve probably looked at it and think it’s quite nice, [chuckle] but it is incredibly invasive. The seed is wind-blown, very light, and can blow for miles. I go down to the northern end of Ocean Beach quite regularly, and I’ve pulled the plants out down there which are growing in the sand dunes; and you know, it must be miles away from any seed source. And as you probably know, they seem to originate from the top of Durham Drive, or probably other people’s gardens as well, but they’ve become very well-established on this northern side of Te Mata Peak, and they are looking to establish themselves in the cliff areas, which is a real worry. That, along with some of the other weeds – valerian is one of them, Mexican daisy’s another; cotoneaster, which is largely being controlled by the Friends of the Park … and I’d like to mention Mike Lusk in particular, who has been fabulous at getting a workforce of people together and chipping away at some of the weeds within the park. Really, cotoneaster’s been brought largely in control by Mike and his merry men. And some of the other weeds we’re investigating means of controlling chemical versus pasting, versus chipping. But it’s a real concern, because once those weeds get established on bluffs it’s going to be very difficult to control them; they will inevitably displace some of the naturally occurring vegetation.

There’s a few things up there which are pretty particular, or a couple in particular. There’s the chionochloa flavicans, which has got a form which is peculiar only to Te Mata Peak. There’s also the pimelea, a little rock daisy type plant that is particular to Te Mata, so there are species which are, you have to look quite hard to find them, but the pimelea in particular have been quite difficult and almost grazed out by goats over the past, because there were a large number of goats running around the Peak for a while. There’s been fencing done to keep stock out of those bluff areas and to try and promote the regrowth, and Mike Lusk has been instrumental again in replanting a lot of those plants all around the bluff areas. So many thanks to Mike and his men; again, probably the people we owe a large debt of gratitude to are the community workers, who largely keep the tracks in the form that they’re in. Sometimes they go a bit overboard, but I guess if you’re supervising, you know, a dozen people with spades and shovels it’s probably hard to keep them in check all the time; sometimes I pull my hair out with some of the zealous nature of their work. [Chuckles]

Vandalism is a major. We have a lot of trouble up there with both painting … you know, graffiti and stuff on rocks, on trees, on signs … and also the amount of rubbish that gets thrown over the top. We’re going to have to have a significant working bee at some stage on Tommy Couper’s side, or what was Tommy Couper’s side, running down to Craggy Range; we could fill a large articulated truck and trailer with the rubbish that’s there. It’s quite unbelievable; there’s fridges, there’s stoves, [audience reaction] there’s all sorts of stuff that people … I mean it’s all been tossed off the top. You don’t see it too much ‘cause most of it lands in the little gullies and things, but at some stage we will have a big community effort, so … [chuckles] when that day comes, we’ll be looking for volunteers.

So I guess the increased usage within the park is one of the reasons we’re … well it’s not the only reason, but it’s one of the main reasons we’re looking at creating a new Park Headquarters. The current Peak House was established in 1967, and it was done as a revenue-raising exercise for the park, because I don’t know if you realise, but the park is a Charitable Trust; it relies almost exclusively on donations and the goodwill of people to run it. We get an annual grant from the Regional Council of $21,000 a year, and that’s instrumental in paying for a part-time caretaker up there. The rest of it is … it’s a very cheap asset for the Hastings District Council. And it is our chief asset, so they get off pretty well [chuckle] with Te Mata Park. I mean, we we rely on them for some funding for roading projects or parking projects, but on an annual basis we run a pretty lean and mean machine, and you know of course, we’re all volunteers. There’s no one paid on the Park Board apart from a paid secretary, Elizabeth Carr, who we couldn’t do without.

So to that effect, Peak House was built as a means of bringing in some revenue to the park. It’s on a separate title … actually, I’ll go back a bit. The Park itself is covenanted with QE2 … it’s Queen Elizabeth National Trust; and the title that the Peak House is on, is not; it’s excluded from there. It’s about two acres; the other balance of roughly two hundred and forty acres is all covenanted, so nothing of any extreme nature can occur without – well, nothing of any significance can occur without consent of the Queen Elizabeth National Trust.

Peak House of course, was run as a restaurant for a number of years and Raymond van Rijk’s been the restaurateur up there. I guess it’s the Park Board’s responsibility to ensure that the buildings are kept up and so on, but for a number of years now we’ve been anticipating either the rebuild or the construction of the new Park Headquarters. Initially we were thinking a rebuild of the Peak House would be the best way to go. There’s various reasons why we’ve moved away from that idea; the main two are its location and availability of flat land around there, and the roading – the way it cuts in on that hairpin bend around Peak House is a major drawback from [for] any future development. We looked at re-routing the road and it didn’t seem to be a feasible prospect.

So there’s also the other reason, that there’s two significant altitude limits – the one-eighty [one hundred and eighty] metres above sea level, and the two-forty [two hundred and forty] metres above sea level; and the two-forty metre line is a restricted building area. It means very little can be done, so we would be limited in how we could reconstruct another Peak House and may mean we’d have to stick to the original floor print [footprint] of Peak House; and that would limit the options considerably. So when we went ahead and felled those trees on the left of the gate – and there was a bit of negative publicity about those; these are the park gates as you enter the park, on the right, it became apparent that there was a fairly reasonable site for the location of the new Park Headquarters on the right-hand side, and that’s what we’re working on at the moment. I’ll go back – the idea is to create a Park Headquarters there, which is an educational resource, with café facilities, toilet facilities, and general sort of information outlet for visitors to the park. There’s nothing currently available from Peak House that sort of fits that bill; even the toilets are really at the discretion of the lessee, so it’s important to upgrade the facilities considerably. And I would like to see a building there that really reflects, or is part of the fantastic landscape that the Te Mata Park represents.

So we’re at the stage we’ve called for expressions of interest from a number of architects throughout New Zealand; a number of local architects. We’ve had almost a hundred percent response from those people which is a bit scary, because I was hoping we might [chuckles] whittle the number down a bit. And we’ve currently sent out service contracts which invite them to give us information about themselves and some of the past works that they’ve done. We’re looking to whittle that number down to four or five and then talk to those guys personally, and get their ideas on what they think would happen up there. But it’s all a fairly slow process, and becomes even slower with a group of eclectic individuals like ourselves sort of [chuckle] trying to manage the whole process. But we’re doing our best, and I’m quite convinced that if it takes a little bit longer it’ll mean we’ll get a better result at the end. And so I do believe that we’ve gotta get it right; we’ve got to create something which is user-friendly, aesthetically fantastic, but not necessarily a statement in itself; something that is part of the iconic landscape around it, and which blends into it. And so we’re working towards that end.

I imagine we will be looking to achieve a sort of complete educational resource there, so people can go in, and school groups can go in, and learn about the Peak; learn about the geology; learn about the flora and fauna, and some of the history of the area, because it’s a fantastic venue for something like that. It’s a fascinating geological formation; it’s got a fascinating history, and people should know more about it. And especially, you know, school groups and young people who really don’t understand too much about their area.

So I guess it’s a matter of watch this page; we’ll be hoping to progress and choose an architect within the next three months. I imagine the resource consenting process will take up to a year and probably with the plans and so on that are required it will be at least eighteen months before we’re starting to get pegs in the ground, or things moving on that front. But as I say, if we’re going to get it right and we take another year, that will not really be a big issue. The Peak House itself will be removed, and we’re hoping that some of the trees and so on will probably come out around there as well, to create some more views. If people know the park well, then they would’ve seen the area the trees have come out, on the left of the gates, have all been replanted, and they’re doing pretty well, considering the couple of years they came through. This year’s been far kinder than the last year in terms of planting, but I would say we’ve had a ninety percent survival rate on that planting. My partner, Anna Archibald, was instrumental in drawing up the plan for that, so I’m sure we can expect something which is going to look fantastic in the future, but of course trees take time to grow.

Of course the other reason for siting the Park Headquarters – apart from it being at the entrance to the park, so it does make reasonable sense to site it there – is it’s one of the few areas where we’ve got semi-flat land where we can actually create a load-off area, or a load-out area, for passengers off the large cruise buses. Nimon’s are a bit concerned about having to offload Americans onto smaller buses and transit buses to go to the top, but you know, it’s all time-driven, and they’re quite aware about the time it takes to get somewhat … should I say overweight Americans … off [laughter] … off the bus onto another bus, then up the top of the hill and back down. It’s a logistical problem either way, but I believe we have to look further ahead; and I believe that within ten years, with the increasing number of cruise buses or large buses going up, we will have to have an alternative plan for them. And so at that Park Headquarters we will be addressing the bus issue, and maybe there’s transit buses running full-time … albeit small mini-buses … running up to the top full-time for people who want to go up and don’t want to drive up there. And you know, if you go to a lot of American parks – I’m just thinking further down the track – there’s times when you can’t take your own car there, you actually just hop on a bus that’s going up and down and get dropped off at the bottom again.

One of the issues of course is vandalism, which largely occurs at night, and usually on Friday and Saturday night, and there’s been obvious calls for the park to be closed by the fire department on a fairly regular basis. Whenever there’s another fire up there I normally get a phone call and saying, “Well, are you looking at closing the park at night?” And especially in dry years; this year’s been fortuitous in that we’ve had a large amount of rain and the fire hazard has not been anywhere near as great; but six years ago that large fire that went for several days across the front of the Peak – it was quite extraordinary that it didn’t spread further actually, with the wind blowing in. It is a time bomb waiting to happen; one’s aware of what happens in Australia when fires get out of hand. If we get a very dry year in Hawke’s Bay and a fire like that gets started, and there’s a significant wind, it could come right round and go into the back of Havelock, and it could be a major. I mean, that fire was started by somebody rolling a tyre off the Peak filled with petrol and diesel [audience reaction]; they do it quite often. And I mean, I’ve always been against closing the park at night; half of it’s logistical and half of it’s based on the idea that I think ninety or ninety-five percent of the people that go up there want to go up there and look around, and get a view of the Hawke’s Bay at night. Or if there’s an astrological event, then that’s the obvious place to go to watch it. And I feel it’s impinging on you know, ninety-five percent of Hawke’s Bay’s population’s rights if we close it down as a result of you know, the minority.

But, having said that, there’s certain times of the year I think that we would need to be able to close the park down, and by locating the Headquarters at the gates it will give us the opportunity to do that. Of course with Peak House, the road would’ve had to’ve been kept open up ‘til Peak House or higher, and really that doesn’t solve the problem, so I imagine – certainly at times of high fire risk or over Guy Fawkes – there may be times when in the future the park will be closed at night.

I think I might have covered just about everything, but I’m more than welcome [happy] to have questions fired at me; or if anyone’s got any particular issues they’d like to bring up, please …

Question: Yes, you mentioned the number of overseas visitors that visit the park – are you getting any feedback from those people as to how …

Brian: Oh, absolutely, I mean they think it’s fantastic. I guess what the park represents … from the Board’s point of view it’s difficult to maintain the wilderness quality of the park versus the user-friendliness of the park, and that’s something I probably haven’t touched on and should’ve touched on. But to be able to drive to the top of the hill and get such expansive views across the sea, across to Mahia, across to the ranges, and then looking south to the Tuki Tuki Valley which is largely pastoral, at the moment [chuckles] – changing rapidly – that’s a comment I get all the time, is just … the view is fantastic. The feedback from them is always positive. In fact some of them say, “We’ve never seen a view like this”, which I find quite surprising considering – if they’re American, they’ve got some amazing country in America. But another example I think is the list done by the Dominion on the top hundred things to do in New Zealand, and going up to the top of Te Mata Peak was the only thing in Hawke’s Bay that was on that list. [Chuckles] But people are always in awe of the park; it’s a great asset, and regardless of the number of people there, there always seems to be room, it doesn’t often feel crowded. When Triple Peaks is happening and a lot of people training, it’s getting pretty congested.

Comment: I was meaning more if you put … from those visitors who might have some ideas how to manage the park.

Brian: Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, I think we’ve got to be careful – the park was originally set up for the people of Hawke’s Bay. I feel quite strongly that what we do is largely for the current users of the park, or aimed at them. We don’t want to be too focused on it becoming a tourism gem or jewel. We’ve done surveys talking to people … users … within the park; the biggest comment is they don’t want things to change, they want it to stay the same. So that again harks back to what I was saying before, it’s a sort of balancing act between making the park user-friendly and as accessible to as many people as possible, but still retaining that wilderness quality. I’ve had everything suggested from you know, gondolas to the top; [chuckle] but obviously that’s not where we’re going. We’ll reassure people in the room that we’ll be doing everything we can to retain the quality that you know exists up there.

Question: I suspect like a lot of people, I’ve just taken it for granted over the years, and thought it just sort of looked after itself. You know, it was just there. [Chuckles] Didn’t think of ever actually doing anything to it. You know, I have a nephew that [who] runs up the goat track every day;

I went with him once, it nearly killed me. [Laughter] It’s quite tough. But you know, from weddings at Peak House, to functions …

Brian: Well, I mean we’ve got a good, committed Board, and we meet only on a quarterly basis, but there’s always some of us that are doing work behind the scenes – well, all of us really. It’s amazing the number of issues that you are confronted with; they sort of come at you quite regularly – almost daily, weekly.

Question: If your budget from Hastings Council was more generous would that affect how you’re conducting business?

Brian: I don’t believe so. I think we would probably manage to get things done with a little bit more style, if you like. We might you know, spend a bit more money on some of the cosmetic things that need attending to, and we might employ a caretaker on a full-time basis, but I think largely it would stay the way it is.

One of the issues, of course, we’re confronting is how to pay for this new Park Headquarters; we’re looking at probably a minimum of $2 million. I’ve given submissions to the District Council, the Napier City Council and the Regional Council on their LTCCPs [long term council community plans] and we’ve had a fairly positive response from all of those councils. Napier … I thought I gave a rather good submission to Napier and they’ve been a little bit slow to come forward with the money [chuckles] or with a commitment; but they have said that they endorse the idea, and they’re prepared to look at help funding further down the track, once they see something tangible like plans and so on. But I did point out that it was gifted to the people of Hawke’s Bay before regional boundaries transcended the common sense of councils; and also that the thirty-five or forty cruise ships that come to Hawke’s Bay every year actually come to Napier, and they might not come to Napier if they don’t have somewhere to go. [Laughter] In a very diplomatic manner. [Laughter] 

Question: You mentioned when your family first took over the property in the 1850s that there was very little bush remaining. What had actually become of the bush at that stage, or who had removed it, if it was there?

Brian: Well, I think a lot of it had been burned out by fires that got out of control; I mean, Maori were quite famous for starting fires to clear areas around pa sites and so on so they could see the the enemy approaching. You imagine, you know, fire burning in the middle of summer in the middle of the forest; it wouldn’t take long. It must have happened – I mean, I know for example, on my farm that it’s very occasional that I find old tree stumps when I’m digging; or any sort of remnants of old trees on most of that land. Occasionally you hit, you know, an old matai stump or something in the swampy areas, but mostly it must have been devoid of bush for a fair time. But I’m sure there’s people here who’ve got a better understanding of that than me.

Question: Yes – there was an eruption at Tarawera about seven hundred years ago, and it burned down a lot of the bush and it never regenerated because of the droughts that set in from there.

Brian: Right.

Comment: Well, all the ground is volcanic throughout Hawke’s Bay. And it all you know, comes from Ruapehu.

Brian: Although the eruption of two thousand years ago could easily have dealt to a lot of the bush around here, with the burying of the … The ash deposits can be twenty feet deep in places. But I’m sure there’s a, there’s a well-accepted answer to that question, but I’m not really … Sorry.

Question: I had the good fortune to work for General Russell nearly fifty years ago. Sitting with him once up on Flag Range Road on a parched February afternoon, I made some stupid comment about how sad it was that all the trees had been taken away. And he shook his head and said that there never had been trees here, and his grandfather had got the land up along the Taihape Road – there wasn’t a tree to be seen. This was all fern country.

Brian: No, that’s right, it was fern and bracken and reasonably easy to break in.

Question: Yes, you mentioned the people on your Board – is there any representation from the Maori?

Brian: We’ve appointed Jerry Hapuku as an associate member, and he came on about a year ago. He of course is a spokesman or elder for this particular area, so we’re very fortunate to have him as a member on the Board, or associate member.

Question: Does the Maori have any teeth today, or not? With what is done on …

Brian: Oh, we would be very cognisant of Maori sensibilities, or sensitivities, rather. As I said, the top of the Peak, or the higher portion of the park is considered very sacred to Maori. It’s probably difficult to quantify that on today’s terms, but I’m always trying to balance or scale back any ideas for development. I didn’t mention it, but one of the challenges I see for the park is either increasing its size; and as well perhaps, ensuring that some of the development that’s, you know, occurring on its periphery is tempered somewhat; especially in the Tukituki Valley. I mean that view from Craggy Range Road right round over the valley … it’s changing every year now, and it’s something I’ve been fairly concerned about. But the Council rules are largely, some would say, lacking in protecting significant landscape areas. A lot of the significant landscape areas are not identified for a start, and the developers generally seem to be able to drive a bus through the Council plan. So there’s a lot of areas that the Council’s lagging, or lagging behind on. Chris?

Chris: It’s the very issue I was just going to ask you about, Bruno, is the fact, you know, Te Mata Park is an outstanding natural feature in our district scheme; but nowhere else is. And the views you take from the top including the river … Tuki Valley … is so important for that view when you’re up there. So it seems logical to me that we put a great deal more effort in trying to make that an outstanding feature, or at least a special character zone.

Brian: Yeah – well there is a special character zone …

Chris: You’ve got constant pressure to develop those areas like you have at Ocean Beach. And we’ve got to preserve those in my view.

Brian: Yeah. But it’s fairly negative stuff, a lot of it. You know, you’re always fighting. And there’s another development going on over the river from me at the moment that I’m utterly opposed to, and I think it’s a complete travesty that it should be allowed, but you know, again, the laxness of the district plan means that clever developers or lawyers can help developers, you know, to an end result one way or another. Well, you know, they might have to do a few corners on the way, but they normally get where they want to be. And in the absence of either a lot of money or very good legal representation, then you’re often fighting rear guard battles. I’m not against development; I’m all in favour of certain areas, significant landscape areas, special character areas, being designated by a Council and, you know, I would be one of the people who could potentially suffer the most [chuckle] as a significant landowner. But it’s something I’ve said to Council again and again, that that these areas do need to be identified. I mean, there’s no protection for our rivers, for example, and Hawke’s Bay is about rivers as much as hills, and the Plains and whatever; and yet the rivers are now becoming, you know, focuses for development. It’s high time the district plan sort of identified protection measures for some of these particular areas that are outstanding in their own way. [Of] course, the problem is it’s an infringement on private ownership and rights, so … not always easy to get people to assimilate that.

Question: Where does the park end in relation to the bluff? Does it end on the top of the bluff and, if so who owns the eastern side and the slope down to the road at the bottom? And could that be in danger of development?

Brian: Everything’s in danger of development. The park actually ends at the top of the cliffs; there’s a sort of notional line drawn along the top of the cliffs, and that’s the boundary. On the other side of that there’s Tommy Couper’s land – or it was Tommy Couper’s land; I think it’s now been a divvy up of the Couper family. I think [?] and Mary Hutton, who’s Tommy’s niece and husband, are taking over that land. I originally spoke to Tommy with a view to perhaps acquiring some more land, but, of course, being in Trust it was a complicated affair I think. And I don’t believe … well, I don’t know, but I don’t believe they’ve got plans for development. But having said that, who’s to say? Well it’s part of an actual outstanding natural feature zone. I’m not sure, I think the outstanding natural feature zone only runs to the base of the hill, and then it becomes a significant landscape area, which is lesser protection, and actually very limited protection.

Comment: ‘Cause I think a lot of people were horrified when Craggy Range and the development there went up …

Brian: I was quite vocal in my opposition to Craggy Range, and we submitted against that development there. And it was scaled back a lot; I mean, they were originally going to have the whole bottling plant out there, which was going to be all the grapes coming from Wairarapa; the rest of Hawke’s Bay were going to be taken out there. The footprint wasn’t scaled back as much as the actual activity, but I still believe it has a significant visual impact; and there’s a lot of people that [who] say, “Well I don’t mind it”, but there’s probably a lot more that say …

Comment: That’s the thin edge of the wedge, isn’t it? One thing can be built, then that sets a precedent, and people’ll say, “Well, Craggy Range got permission, why can’t we?”

Brian: Yeah, yeah, yeah – you’re right; it’s always a case of, you know, once modified it’s far easier to continue to modify … can’t turn it back the other way, unfortunately. It’s a one-way road. So as I say, everything is in danger of development, and unfortunately the district plan is not going to be our saviour. It is being toughened up, and there’s Plan Change 38 which was notified – it made it more difficult within the coastal environment to subdivide, or given the Council more discretion over subdivision within the coastal environment. Plan Change 49 is endeavouring to close some loopholes, but it’s all rear-guard action; they’re always trying to close the gate after the horse has sort of disappeared over the hill. But when were Councils ever visioned? You know, they’re always just reactive these days. No councillors here? [Chuckles] Any other questions?

Closing: Brian, on behalf of the Duart House Society, thank you very much for speaking to us today about the history of Te Mata Peak, and the issues that you face in maintaining it. So thank you, Brian.

[Applause]

Brian: Thank you very much. I should say I’m mostly known as Bruno, but my father and my bank manager still call me Brian, so [chuckles] you’re welcome.

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Duart House Talk 17 March 2010

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