Original article on Stuff by Rose Davis. Last updated 09:00, June 1 2018
A marina at Kennedy Point on Waiheke Island has been approved by the Environment Court.
The decision released by Judge Laurie Newhook on May 30 is a devastating blow to SKP (Save Kennedy Point), the community group that has fiercely opposed plans for a 186-berth marina and floating car park for 72 cars.
SKP and island resident Ron Walden appealed against Auckland Council's consent for Kennedy Point Boatharbour Limited to construct the marina on the southern coast of the island.
Judge Newhook has decided the planned marina will have "a variety of positive impacts for people and communities" and the physical environment.
The structures will provide new recreational access to the sea and reduce coastal erosion, he said.
SKP chairperson David Baigent said the group was still deciding whether to appeal the court decision.
The community has donated more than $250,000 for the legal battle against the marina, which will occupy 7.3 hectares of the bay.
"After so much hard work and with so many of the local community supporting us, it is a heavy blow," Baigent said.
"This decision means that other developers may feel it's the time to seize more of the island's assets, thus changing the island's rural landscape."
Baigent said it was "wrong" that Waiheke's small community might have to raise more money to fight the marina plans.
"New legislation is required to protect and safeguard our fragile coastal environment," he said.
Judge Newhook said the floating car park was a particularly contentious aspect of the marina proposal. SKP's planning expert Mark Arbuthnot challenged whether there was a "functional need" to build a floating car park, floating marina office and community building within the marine environment.
However, Judge Newhook accepted arguments from Auckland Council and marina company representatives, who said the floating car park and other buildings were a necessary part of the development and were justified within the bay.
The marina would use floating attenuators and no dredging or reclamation would be required, Judge Newhook said.
Public sewage pump out facilities, new pile moorings, a dinghy rack, and day berths for 30 boats are planned.
Kennedy Point Marina Maritime Trust planned to provide grants of $10,000 a year for maritime education, Judge Newhook said.
Written evidence was lodged by 24 Waiheke residents supporting SKP's efforts to stop the marina, while four members of the Kennedy Point Marina Supporters Group filed evidence.
Judge Newhook noted an "unfortunate division" between Māori groups about the impact of the marina on cultural values in the bay.
Representatives from Waiheke's Piritahi Marae opposed the development, but Ngati Paoa Iwi Trust, which is based in the Waikato but has mana whenua status on the island, supported the development.
Piritahi Marae representative Paora Toi Te Rangiuaia said the area featured ancient Māori pā and other historical sites and was still used for harvesting seafood.
"The loss of our cultural landscape because of this marina development is something we deem unacceptable.
"The appetite for private empire building within the public commons is diametrically opposed to the island's and Piritahi ethos and a blatant disregard of community and home," Te Rangiuaia said.
Judge Newhook said mana whenua were "best placed" to comment on cultural values, so his decision relied on the views of Ngati Paoa, rather than those of Māori from the local marae.
Those opposed to the marina raised concerns about the impact on threatened little blue penguins, which have nests in the bay and in breakwaters near the car ferry terminal.
However, Judge Newhook said existing penguin burrows would not be disturbed and the marina would have minimal effects on native birds in the bay.
He said groundbreaking rules, requiring the use of "low impact" antifouling paints, were included in the marina plans.
SKP's landscape architects John Hudson and Sally Peake said a marina in any location would be inappropriate, given Waiheke's character and values. However, Judge Newhook said it would "fit well into the landscape".
Sociologist Kelly McNeill said the marina would widen the gap between rich and poor on the island.
"The vast majority of berths will be sold to non-residents of Waiheke, introducing a group of people who are visibly more affluent than the vast majority of the local population," McNeill said.
Judge Newhook said there was no evidence the marina would have adverse social impacts. The court could not distinguish between residents and visitors when allocating natural resources, he said.
Marina developer Tony Mair said he was pleased with the decision.
"Now we can move forward positively," he said.
The marina company, based in Orakei in Auckland, would seek court costs related to the appeals by SKP and Walden, Mair said.
Plans for another marina at Matiatia on Waiheke Island were turned down by Judge Newhook in December 2015, after the community raised more than $430,000 to fight the development.