By Mike McMinn

The craziness of the Government’s anti-democratic Treaty of Waitangi secret settlement process could not be more vividly portrayed than in the controversial Tainui Ruakura inland port plans.

The Waikato tribe, Tainui, received the Ruakura parcel of land as part of its TOW settlement. It now wants to turn the beautiful area – which is just 3km to the north-east of Hamilton’s CBD and is surrounded by Waikato University and residential communities – into a huge freight hub that will be worked 24/7.

The tribe’s long-term plans are to develop the area into an industrial zone.

So much for the usual Maori iwi public relations ‘face’ and sob stories of pristine lost lands and traditional tribal lifestyles.

Tainui wants to develop about 500ha of the land, in partnership with Chedworth Properties, which owns an adjacent 116ha.

Together with Chedworth, the pairing have made strategic decisions that may affect Hamilton district residents for generations to come. They plan to spend billions of dollars on the ‘port’ over the next 50 years and claim it will produce many jobs.

But residents of the area – there are resident groups from Ruakura, Newstead and Fairview – have flagged their strong opposition to the scheme.

Opponents have cited many negative effects such an inland port would bring. A big one is the damage to property values of residents who have lived there for generations, some on lifestyle blocks. Damage to wildlife is another major reason they oppose the scheme. A third negative is the increased truck and traffic movements that may result in the growth of accidents and deaths.

But there would be many other problems – especially the impacts on lifestyle, caused by contamination and dust, vibrations, the visual effects of the towers, tower lighting and containers of the port, and the ‘sheer hell’ of the noise and nuisance of a 24/7 operation.

Living in Ruakura and attending schools or university would become a nightmare.

Tainui and Chedworth apparently told a pre-planning conference in early February that they have identified long-term development opportunities to unlock the potential of their respective land acquisitions through investment of billions of dollars over the next 50 years.

To hell with the present residents and communities, it seems. According to the NZ Herald’s property reporter, Anne Gibson, the proposed scheme is surrounded by residential communities, Waikato University and local schools.

Opponents of the scheme have also suggested it is nonsensical unless proper protective measures, zoning restrictions and significant buffers were put into law.

They say such a hub should instead be built at the northern end of Hamilton – on State Highway 1, near already well-established Fonterra and Freightlines freight-handling facilities.

Tainui Group Holdings CEO, Mike Pohio, told the Herald that its long-term plans were to develop an industrial zone, knowledge zone and medium-density housing on its land.

The Environment Protection Authority said the tribe’s plans will be heard by a board of enquiry sitting in Hamilton from May 6.