Refining NZ Crude Freight (Dredging) Proposal: Cultural Effects Assessment – Now Published

Executive Summary (full report available to download here >)

This report documents the collective response of Tāngata Whenua o Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa in regard to Refining NZ’s proposed application to dredge and realign the channel approach to and adjacent to Marsden Point to enable berthing of fully laden Suezmax and the disposal of the dredgings in Bream Bay. Refining NZ have formally engaged with tāngata whenua in relation to the proposal on a regular basis since 2014. Tāngata Whenua have produced a cultural values assessment detailing the cultural relationships, uses and values of the subject site and surrounds in order to inform the scope of the technical studies commissioned by Refining NZ as part of project scoping and design as well as an assessment of alternatives exercise. Key themes arising from the cultural values assessment included:

  • The strong interrelatedness of Whāngarei Harbour hapu and iwi and their historic and contemporary association with the harbour through constructs such as whakapapa and ahi kā.
  • The relationship to Paraoa/Tohora/Whales.
  • Aspects of significant cultural landscapes and seascapes, and wāhi tapu in and around the project footprint.
  • The significance of mahinga mataitai in or adjacent to the subject site.
  • Current and future tāngata whenua aspirations in relation to rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga in this location.


An independent review of the technical documents prepared by Refining NZ’s consultants was also undertaken at the request of tāngata whenua to identify questions, comments or concerns for consideration prior to the preparation of this Cultural Effects Assessment. The independent technical review identified some key areas of concern, including:

  • The economic analysis provided by NZIER, including the overall viability of the refinery in the long term.
  • The relationship of the proposed application within the context of climate change and New Zealand’s current and future policy over the lifetime of the consents sought.
  • The overall health of the harbour and the role of RNZ as a key stakeholder.
  • The practical implementation of the responsibility of kaitiakitanga in relation to the harbour.
  • The potential impacts of dredging, including disposal of dredgings, eg. in relation to noise, loss of habitat and species, sediment plumes and changes in tidal dynamics.

These steps have informed the development of this Cultural Effects Assessment in conjunction with an assessment framework based on review of relevant iwi planning documents and crucial provisions of the RMA 1991.

In terms of the iwi planning documents, the proposal was found to be inconsistent with iwi and hapu policy, for example;

“The mauri of Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa is not to be further compromised by industrial activities at Poupouwhenua and must be protected and enhanced to enable Tāngata Whenua to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing; and that of generations as yet unborn. Further, major dredging programmes are to be avoided.”

Tāngata whenua analysis of the proposal in light of the RMA provisions relating to kaitiakitanga concluded that the proposal has the potential to diminish their standing as kaitiaki and have flow on effects on mana, and their spiritual and physical wellbeing. With regard to Treaty principles, it was considered that the proposal would not strengthen the ability of tāngata whenua to exercise rangātiratanga and could undermine their right to develop in future, and impact on potential outcomes of applications for customary marine title and/or protected customary rights. Tāngata whenua assessment of potential environmental effects was set within a holistic frame of view and collective experience, particularly in relation to previous developments in the area. The cumulative effects of RNZ’s proposal are likely to further contribute to the decline of the harbour ecosystem and some low probability high impact effects identified were considered to be unacceptable.

Tāngata whenua assessment of potential cultural effects concluded that the proposed dredging of Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa would not provide for te reo māori me nga tikanga, and cultural and spiritual wellbeing. The mauri of the harbour would continue to be eroded, and subsequently affect values such as kaitiakitanga, mātauranga māori, and mana. These cumulative effects were considered to be significant adverse effects that are unable be mitigated.

Tāngata whenua assessment of potential social and economic effects as a result of the project was that any perceived positive impacts were unlikely to outweigh the negative ecological and cultural impacts. While existing jobs at the refinery are important to the region, their viability in the long term is uncertain regardless of this project going ahead. The ecological and cultural health of the harbour is considered to be inextricably linked to the economic and social wellbeing of tāngata whenua.

The overall consensus was that the range and magnitude of potentially unacceptable adverse effects meant that managing, mitigating or offsetting the effects would not be possible. When effects occur concurrently and in conjunction with past impacts, the cumulative effects in relation to marine mammals, benthic organisms, coastal processes, kaitiakitanga, and mauri, for example, are significant. Tāngata whenua therefore seek that the proposal in its entirety be avoided (ie. should not proceed) as it does not align to our cultural values and therefore impacts further on the mauri of Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa and Te Akau (Bream Bay). At a hui-a-hapu held on 12th May 2017 the following resolution was passed:

“That nga hapu katoa oppose Refining NZ’s Crude Freight Proposal resource consent application/s”.

The report does, however make concluding recommendations that Refining NZ be encouraged to continue dialogue with Tāngata Whenua o Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa on all aspects of this application. Further, that tāngata whenua and Refining NZ should continue to work together with the objective of restoring the mauri of Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa to support mahinga kai of abundance and diversity that sustains customary use.