Ōkorihi Marae set to have wharekai completed after stand-off with Far North District Council

By Raniera Harrison

Northland's Ōkorihi Marae is set to be completed after a lengthy standoff with the Far North District Council.

The marae will be issued a new building consent on Wednesday after construction was unexpectedly halted six weeks ago.

However, the marae chair says it highlights the lack of local government partnership when dealing with marae.

Ngāti Ueoneone have been waiting six weeks for their new wharekai to be completed

They say the construction has been stifled by the Far North District Council over trivial matters - and that's the real problem.

"This house isn't for an individual, nor is it for only one family. How many thousands of descendants come from here. Where is the love from the council to them?" asks Ōkorihi Marae chair, Quinton Hita.

In January, a Far North District Council building inspector shut down construction here at Ōkorihi Marae over what Ngāti Ueoneone say were "small alterations".

Six weeks on, the FNDC have done a U-turn suggesting it was unjust and will issue a new building consent on Wednesday for construction to continue.

"I agree that this communication around that point of the new building consent is not as good as it could be and I apologise for that," says the CEO of the Far North District Council, Shaun Clarke.

Hita says the marae was issued a Notice To Fix in January, meaning they had until the "middle of March" to correct the issues or run the risk of being fined up to $200,000.

A warning to another marae currently applying for building consent from local government nationwide.

"This is a problem that will be encountered by others, especially around the Hokianga, and throughout Northland. We know this" adds Hita.

Hita says that another issue highlighted was the lack of consultation with Māori advisors at the Far North District Council

Questioning why a mere building inspector was given supreme authority to put the construction of a marae on halt for six weeks.

"If this is how the Far North District Council seek to collaborate with Māori to look after and support our marae - they've got it completely wrong," says Hita.

However, the council say all they can do is apologise - and urge hapū and iwi they are currently reviewing their processes.

"We do understand the cultural and spiritual significance of Ōkorihi Marae and we apologise to the Ngāti Ueoneone people for the delay that's been caused in the last few weeks of this project" adds Mr Clarke.

Hita told Te Ao, others connected to the marae are considering protest action tomorrow over the matter.