More than 120 people packed a public meeting in Kerikeri to express their opposition to plans to commercialise the running of Aroha Island Ecological Centre.
The island’s owners, the QEII National Trust, also attended the meeting, at The Centre, Kerikeri on Thursday night, to defend their decision to sell the lease.
Trust spokesman, Bill Garland, claimed the island cost $45,000 a year to run and the QEII couldn’t afford to keep this up. He also argued that the trust’s core business was protecting land through covenants, not managing it as was happening at Aroha.
The organizers of the meeting, the NZ Kiwi Foundation, and several members of the public challenged QEII over the lack of guarantees in the lease documents either for continuing public access to Aroha or for its retention as a centre for kiwi conservation.
Kiwi Foundation Trustee, Lindsay Charman, told the meeting: “Aroha Island is the centre of kiwi conservation on private land in Northland. If these plans go ahead, all the hard work that has gone into kiwi conservation – not only in Kerikeri, but also throughout the region – will be wasted.”
Hugh Rihari, of Ngati Mau, described Aroha as a treasure: “It is a sacred place and the site of two urupa [cemeteries]. Because of this, any further development here would be totally inappropriate.”
On a show of hands, the meeting unanimously voted to support efforts to continue running Aroha Island as a conservation centre.
It was decided that a committee be formed to draw up a proposal for the lease to manage the island. If successful a community trust will be formed to run the island.
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