Always about the money

The Herald reports:

Visitors to the Bay of Islands this week were handed leaflets on the wharf at Paihia urging them not to take the famed trip to the Hole in the Rock at Motu Kokako, Piercy Island. The Motu Kokako Ahu Whenua Trust complains that the boat operators are not telling tourists the correct history of the island and its significance to Ngapuhi.

That is a legitimate complaint.

The trust also wants a payment for the attraction.

That isn’t.

Our mana is being trampled on by these operators,” said chairman Rau Hoskins.

But $3 a trip will heal that mana.

If the three companies running boats through the Hole in the Rock do not enter negotiations, the trust says, it will block the entrance in some way. “The idea that anyone can claim ownership of a natural waterway is foreign to most people in New Zealand and to its law. But it is not foreign to custom, as was evident in the foreshore and seabed claim and the challenge to the sale of hydro-power companies. It is an issue the country needs to resolve once and for all.

You can’t legislate away a difference of opinion. The legal status is clear however.

When Fullers had the attraction to itself, it agreed to pay a portion of each fare to the trust. When competition arrived, Fullers made common cause with the trust and took a rival operator to court on a claim of trespass. The case failed, the High Court ruling that access to open sea could not be impeded under maritime law. Fullers then stopped paying the trust.

Fair enough.

Rather than seeking rent from the resource, they could be running tours themselves. If none of the existing operators are giving visitors the island’s authentic story in the trust’s view, the trust has a golden opportunity. Not all tourists want an indigenous cultural experience but many do. The trust could obtain a suitable vessel and offer a trip clearly different from its competitors.

That is a good idea.

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