Te Mata debate exposes racial undertones

A recent deal between Ngāti Kahungunu and Craggy Range winery has put an end to a seven-month debate over whether to keep the controversial Te Mata Peak track.

The track will now be removed and a new superior track will replace it - one that considers the cultural, historical and aesthetic values of the land.

While the decision takes the heat out a fierce community debate, one which saw Māori on one side and pro-track supporters on the other, local Māori say it's time for healing.

Ngāti Kahungunu members says they've been the targets of racial abuse, and a descendant of the former landowners - who gifted Te Mata Peak to the people of Hawke's Bay - Bruno Chambers says it has "turned friends and neighbours against each other".

Spokesperson for the pro-track group The Peoples' Track, George Williams, told The Hui his group simply wanted to have a positive say. Asked whether his group had added to the division, he said he'd tried to be impartial.

A notice posted by The Peoples' Track about a Māori protest warned of violence, but Mr Williams said he was simply reporting what he had heard.

But the comments that followed Mr Williams' warnings made insults toward Māori protesters calling them "bar-coded Māori women", and suggesting "the other half of the iwi were at KFC or the pub".

Other posts on The People's Track page described Māori as "warlike entities" and another said "this behaviour had been bred into them like they breed their dogs".

Iwi leader Ngahiwi Tomoana responded to the comments, saying his people "are used to that".

He said last year the Havelock North community ran their kura kaupapa out of town and Mr Tomoana described them as "modern-day Klu Klux Klan". He said those kind of people will continue to march at them.

For now, a new path promises hope.

And while the scar on the land will eventually disappear, for Kahungunu it'll be etched into their memories - a reminder that even the best of relationships can turn sour.

The Hui