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The Marina


A private enterprise has recently applied for permission to build a small marina on Waiheke Island.

This project has been met with great enthusiasm by the boating community and with equally great frustration by some other portion of the local population. It has been the subject of much politics, debate, protests and a very divisive issue.

I am pro marina, or rather not against it. Here is why.

Not because I have a boat. I only have a 14-feet tinny on a trailer. I launch it from the beach or from some boat ramps, for which I am very grateful. I use this craft to contribute to the depletion of fish stock and to feed my friends and family, if I am lucky. But ever since I got here some 38 years ago, I always wondered why there was no marina on Waiheke, just some moorings in two bays.

There was a first project a few years back. It was ill conceived and rightfully opposed and dismissed. The new project on the other hand seems to me like a good idea.

Now, if you are a marina opponent, please do not to instantly dismiss me on emotional impulses. Please make me the courtesy of reading what follows. If you are opposing the Marina and feel frustrated that your voice has not been heard, you will understand that I am equally entitled to voice my opinion. Do not become guilty of the same crime you feel you have been victim of. Please read on.

One must accept that the purpose of a marina is to provide safe, practical haven for pleasure boats. Can we at least agree on that? A marina does provide safe and practical haven for boats. This fact cannot be reasonably dismissed.
Not everybody is a boat owner and not everybody needs a marina. But opposing a marina on the ground that you don’t have a boat is a bit like opposing a school on the basis that you don’t have any children. There are indeed many infrastructures that are useful assets to portions of the community, even if you will personally never use any of these assets. Can we reasonably agree that, aside from any other considerations, a marina is a useful and desirable infrastructure for boat owners?

I have read and heard many times statements to the effect ofThis marina will only be for mainland people, not locals.” Even if that were true, what exactly would be wrong with that? Apart of a very few exceptions, we were all once mainland people. We do not own Waiheke Island, we simply live here for a few years until we die or move on, in the meantime, we can’t reasonably demand that only infrastructures that benefit all the locals and only the locals be build. That would be kind of selfish and unreasonable.
Having established that a marina is in fact a desirable and useful asset for at least a portion of the population, the next questions that must be examined are can it be build? where to build it? when to build it? and who should build it?

Who should build it?
Should it be built by the state, by the council or by a private enterprise?  A school can be a state asset paid for by our taxes or it can a private enterprise. I think we can agree that in the case of a marina, it would be fair to expect a private enterprise to build it rather than ask the taxpayers or the ratepayers. In this case, a private enterprise just volunteered to build it. The project has been through lengthy legal scrutiny and consultations, through many iterations and refinements and all consents and permits have been granted and signed off by our state institutions.

Public organisations such as city councils are notoriously inefficient. It has been more than 15 years since the community has been clamouring for an indoor swimming pool, something that could truly benefit almost the entire community. See how far that public project has gone. It has gone exactly nowhere, complete inertia. If the rich boat owners want a marina, let them build it themselves.
It is clear to me that it is much preferable that a private enterprise foot the bill rather than you and I through our taxes and rates. We cannot reasonably, legally, or morally oppose the marina on the basis that it is built by a private enterprise.  Can we reasonably agree that, aside from all other considerations, it is much preferable that this marina be built by a private enterprise?

Still, this private enterprise will make a profit.” Let’s hope they do and generate enough cashflow to maintain the marina to the highest standards and to meet the terms and conditions of their consent. Making a profit is no crime and certainly no ground to oppose a development. Should we only allow enterprises that make a loss?

When to build a marina? It could have been built 50 years ago or more. The marina would have already existed when you first moved to or magically appeared on the island, and it would have been part of the natural order of things, part of the Waiheke you loved enough to make it your home.  But people making Waiheke their home often wish that the island stays the way it was when they first arrived, and oppose any changes to their island, perfect as it is, to their exact taste.  Opposing the construction of a marina on the basis that it will change Waiheke as it was when you first arrived is not a reasonable principle. Do you think that building your house has changed and impacted the Island and should therefore never have been permitted? I suspect that you can immediately come up with a great variety of reasons to justify the existence of your house, garage, granny flat, visitor accommodation, glass house, garden shed, driveway, septic and the road that goes to it.
Should we oppose the marina project because it is being built during our lifetime? Would it have been OK before your birth or after your death but not under your watch? Can we reasonably agree that, aside of all other considerations, now is as good a time as ever?

Where is a most suitable place to build a marina? On the foreshore obviously, in a secluded bay preferably, with deep enough water not to require dredging, in proximity of the community it will serve, somewhere leveraging existing infrastructure such as a road, carpark, wharf. Someplace where visual and environmental impact would be most reduced, someplace where it would not affect existing amenities.  Should the marina deface a virgin bay or add manmade structures to an already developed one? A quick survey of the island geography against these criteria suggest that the approved location is the best place to build a marina, if not the only suitable location. This marina is a set of floating pontoons on piles. Even if it is exposed to the predominant westerlies, it is never exposed to the kind of waves and surf that would quickly destroy any floating structure. Is this another case of NIMB?  Can we reasonably agree that, aside of all other considerations, the chosen location is the most suitable place or at least the least detrimental one?

To resume, a marina is a useful infrastructure, that should be built now by a private enterprise at the approved location.

But let’s now examine all these other considerations I keep dismissing and setting aside. There are indeed good reasons why the marina could be opposed. These reasons have been examined by a series of administrations, tribunals and jurisdictions who have repeatedly concluded that they were not enough ground to reject the project legally, morally, commercially, environmentally, and reasonably. You might think that such administrations and jurisdictions are corrupt, inept, and despotic but I would advise you to keep quiet on that unless you have evidence to support your claim. There are laws against defamation in Aotearoa. Free speech is like all kinds of freedom, it stops where other people’s freedom starts.

Not allowing the project to proceed on the basis that part of the community oppose it would be despotic, antidemocratic, and unfair. The opposition must provide legal, commercial, moral, reasonable, measurable and verifiable evidence to support their claims. “Because we don’t want to” is not good enough. The reason I am writing all this is because I have been on many occasions bluntly told to shup up by marina opposers. Sometimes, the educated, enlighten and progressive are so convinced of their moral superiority that they become supremely confident of their rights and start acting like supremacists. The far right is often coming from where you expect it the least.

Are we opposing the Marina because it is being built by a private enterprise that will occupy public space for its own profit, for the benefit of a few at the expense of everybody else? The marina will be all of that, but I fail to see why any of that could justify its dismissal.
A marina is necessarily built on public space because no water is private. All ports, marinas, mussels’ farms, oyster farms, fish farms, light house, boat ramps,  moorings, pontoons, wharves, shipping channels and any sea infrastructures, private or public, are all build on public space. There is no other choice.
Your private house, owned or rented, occupies space that used to be public and has been built for the exclusive benefit of a very few at the expenses of everybody else, now and for future generations. Privatising or leasing out public space happens all the time and there are strict rules and regulations on how that can happen. These regulations have been established by our forebears and have gradually evolved under the guidance of many generations of democratically elected officials and representatives. We cannot deprive boat owners of a useful asset on the basis that we will not personally benefit from it, that would be very selfish indeed. Are we opposing the marina because we are not part of the happy few?

Environmental impact?
There will be environmental impact. Both during its construction and during its operation. A marina is polluting. The marina project only came to life because we elected to make Waiheke our home, that is you included, you, me and every other Islands resident, permanent or seasonal, some boat owners amongst them.  Because we have decided to build, buy or rent a house, with a concrete driveway, a fireplace and a septic tank and that, as a result of that choice, we all collectively need many infrastructures to make our lives possible and comfortable on the island. That is schools, roads, carparks, villages, commercial and industrial areas, wharves, quarry, golf course, sport parks, air fields, refuse tips, vineyards and restaurants, public toilets, medical centers, retirement villages, parks, reserves, playgrounds, communication towers, street lightings, road signage, police stations, fire brigades, costguards, mechanics, engineering companies, animal refuges, boat ramps, sidewalks, cycle lanes, libraries, art galleries, public transport and bus stops, community halls, cinema and theaters, all of which, individually and collectively have an enormous environmental impact, a massive visual impact, constant noise impact. We do not all use all of these infrastructures, but we are all individually responsible for their existence by virtue of living on Waiheke and therefore all participate to significant environmental depreciation. Denying a very useful amenity to small group on the basis of a small environmental impact is incredibly selfish. It is like saying that we, the poor masses are allowed to massively pollute, deface and degrade but not the very few rich, not even a little bit.

Is this Marina only for a happy few at the expense of the majority?  Indeed, not everybody is interested in owning a boat, not everybody can afford to buy a boat, let alone a marina berth. But surely, we are not opposing the marina because it will used by the rich and not by the poor. That would be like saying that if you cannot afford to or are not interested in having a marina berth, no one else should be allowed to. And which of our rights, privileges, comfort and freedom are we going to lose exactly?

This is a precedent that will open the floodgates to other polluting and unwanted projects. No.
You are the precedent. Whomever first set foot and established a human colony on the Island is the precedent. No humans, no marina. Where mankind arrives, marinas will follow.

And what about the penguins?  From what I understand, there were no penguins at Kennedy point until we build a boulder jetty some 15 years ago. I am no biologist, but I have observed that there is a long-established colony of Korora at Matiatia, nesting in another manmade boulders wall, a few meters from a well used boat ramp and from where massive ferries are berthing and leaving several times every day from 6am till midnight in arguably the most polluted, noisiest bay on Waiheke. If they are still there, these birds are very resilient indeed, if they have gone, it is most likely because of the disruption of the ferries we all use. We are all perfectly happy, or blissfully unaware, to sacrifice one nest of penguins for the convenience of having a regular link to the mainland. We, the good residents of this island must and can scare away a few birds but the evil, private corporate marina developers and rich boat owners cannot. Selfish again. Taking every step not to disturb the penguins is commendable, opposing the marina on that ground is not.

What about Maori kaitiakitanga? This is an aera where I have no expertise and can’t really intervene. But me being me, I’ll risk it and comment anyway. If I were Maori and wanting to buy a marina berth, I would find plenty of good reasons to support the project. Being Maori does not make one an automatic marina opponent.

My only grief about this marina is that no public artwork has been commissioned to embellish it.

If you wish to react: Olivieroduhamel@gmail.com

The Devil’s advocate.

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