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“Shocking and shameful” Damage upsets Māori land owners

Māori land owners are distraught over the destruction of their whenua at Matakitaki-a-Kupe [Cape Palliser] and have reached out to the South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] to help find a way to protect the whenua, wildlife, and ecosystem.

At the end of Cape Palliser Rd is a gravel car park and a large gated area. Despite the gate, hundreds of people have simply opened it up and driven onto the paper road and beyond over the years. A paper road is a legal road that has not been formed, or is only partly formed.

A paper road which connected to White Rock has been badly damaged, and access is now impossible. The paper road now ends at the Stonewall Reserve and stream, something which Leighton Hale said is a wāhi tapu [sacred] site.

Hale sent a submission to the SWDC Māori Standing Committee asking for help protecting the land. It is understood SWDC has erected a sign explaining the importance of respecting the whenua.

Hale said he did not want to restrict access to everybody and that the stream and reserve should be something for all families to enjoy.

The problem lies with dozens of 4WDs that do burnouts, skids, and donuts on the whenua surrounding the paper road, he said.

Videos seen by the Times-Age show several 4WDs on the land after what looks to be a heavy rainfall. The 4WDs can be seen flicking up large amounts of mud and water as they drive back and forth through the substantial puddles. Other footage shows 4WDs doing skids and donuts through wet grass.

Large ruts have formed on the paper road and whenua after heavy usage. The ruts are so large that a standard car would likely ‘bottom out’.

Hale explained that a wildfire tore through the land in the late 80s or early 90s and “devastated a lot of the land and trees”.

“The thing that frightens me the most is the campfires; we can’t afford to have another fire,” he said.

Campers and drivers still go to the land and light fires as well as freedom camp on some parts of the whenua, Hale said.

“The paper road has been damaged beyond belief.”

People who choose to camp on the site often leave their rubbish behind, leaving it to others to clean up.

Motorbikes, quadbikes, and 4WDs have all been seen doing wheelies in the paddocks, Hale said.

“If that happened with another landowner, you know, they’d be trespassed and never welcome back again,” he said.

When he asks campers to move along from the land, they often use the excuse that they’ve been doing it for “years and years”.

“So, people have been desecrating our wāhi tapu sites for years and years.”

Hale said he loves the whenua down south.

“It’s a beautiful part of the country, it’s rugged.”

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tāmaki nui-a-Rua Settlement Trust chair Haami Te Whaiti said the land was divided into six blocks and owned by different whānau.

He is horrified with the “indiscriminate drivers” who chose to damage the whenua and says something needs to be done to make it stop.

“It’s causing so much damage,” Te Whaiti said.

“It’s shocking, and it’s shameful. We don’t want the damage that’s been caused by indiscriminate drivers driving along our land. We want that stopped.”

The significant damage to the land has also caused issues for people who graze stock in the area.

“It has impacts on our ability to be able to utilise our land as well,” he said.

“People are going in there and using it as a playground, deliberately creating holes and ruts.”

“We would never think to go out there and do that on somebody else’s property,” Te Whaiti said.

Whānau are planning to meet with SWDC to discuss the issues and will provide drone footage of the area and videos of the 4WDs.

SWDC were approached for comment but could not respond before deadline.


  1. Whilst I do not agree with people tearing up anybody’s private land with their 4WDs etc, having lived out there for the last 50 plus years, the vehicle numbers and visitors have increased 200 fold. Also to be honest this has been happening throughout that time frame. Originally some of the road past the lighthouse was fenced off – however over the years this has fallen in disrepair. What does concern myself is now the amount of people now coming out that way and doing the damage – it is not the local community doing the damage. I often see 4WD vehicles heading past the lighthouse many of whom stick to the tracks – it is the occasional groups of of 3 – 5 plus vehicles who are responsible for the damage and many of these vehicles are kitted out with all sorts of equipment (equipment you do not need to travel around there if you stick to the road/tracks). You see them heading back into town covered in mud and such and can often guess what they have been up to. As I said it is not a new thing – it seems to be that the land owners are now taking a interest in their land and what has been happening, along with the much increased amount of vehicles. For those that do not know the App “Pocket Maps” shows where public access is allowed and where we should be sticking to. I sympathize with the land owners and do not wish to see those of us who responsibly use (and appreciate) the access to be penalized because of a few from out of town doing damage to private land.

  2. We are talking 👄 about hoons and boy racers that the wairarapa as a whole is going through? Not just YOUR AREA. It’s not a council problem 😕 but a POLICE ONE. Send your videos and information to the POLICE 🚔.

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