OPINION: If the reports of some idiots trying to keep others away from their favorite surfing beach at the mouth of Kawhia Harbor with a firearm are even half true, it's time for the small coastal community to reclaim those beaches.
It seems that a group of people surfing at Te Māika and Albatross Point was shot and abused by two people on the land above the beach. It is unlikely that the recordings were intended to hit someone, just to warn them. But Kāwhia is not the wild west of the fictional film world. Kāwhia is my birthplace, so this is a very personal issue and I'm angry that everyone would have the guts to claim those beaches and the surf as his own. I am also surprised that someone would be so stupid to shoot a shot at or near someone in the surf to apparently deter them from what he assumes as a private surfing beach.
It seems that the surfers did not cross a private country to get to the surf beach, but came across the harbor via jet-ski. Even if the surfers had crossed the private land without permission, shooting at them was unforgivably stupid in the extreme and earning a stiff prison sentence.
The beaches at Te Māika and Albatross Point were where we enjoyed an annual summer picnic after a short trip across the harbor in the late launch of Tom Rewi or on our own family fishing boat, the Elsie. This place is steeped in our history and we knew that not far from there were the sites of the ancient fighting pā of Te Tōtara and Te Arawī, where the right to live and occupy the area at high cost was wrested from Te Rauparaha and are Ngāti Toa people in 1821. We never penetrated those places, but the beaches were ours and we played sports there, went fishing there and learned to swim there in the years after the First World War. After more than half a century, the call of the Kāwhia, which I remember well from afar, continues to haunt my daydreams and there is a strong sense of belonging – but never a feeling of exclusive property.
The navel of my father is buried somewhere and a lot of my big family are resting on the little cemetery. Our beaches were, and are, for everyone to enjoy and nobody is the exclusive domain of self-spot playboy surfers or anyone else.
If a few stupid surf enthusiasts do not share these special places with others, they are free to go elsewhere and take their arrogance and ignorance with them. Such attitudes do not belong in Kāwhia or any other beach in New Zealand. Unlike most other countries, New Zealand does not have its own ocean beaches as such. The concept is so unacceptably alien to our psyche that when a beach near Nelson was surrounded by private land by an accident with natural coastal dynamics, about 40,000 New Zealanders picked up more than $ 2 million in 2016 to buy the 800-meter stretch of sand and pour it to the nation. That small beach is now part of the Abel Tasman National Park.
The reaction of the men of my father's generation, recently returned from the war, to such anger would have been quick, unambiguous and painfully memorable. The firearm would probably have landed in the sea or wrapped around the nearest post. And sitting down for a while would have been a delicate and uncomfortable maneuver. Fortunately we live in softer times, but I know without a doubt that the people of Taharoa and Kāwhia from my youth would have been disappointed by such an insult to visitors and strangers.
There is probably a possibility here for the kaumātua of Taharoa and Kāwhia to play a leading role and to prevent a possible tragedy. The people who fired these shots are likely to be known to different people in both communities and it is essential that they be disarmed as soon as possible and handled by the authorities.
There is also a place for an ordinary peace fleet of summer picnickers to meet on those beaches for summer sports, including company and to leave their footsteps in the sand, because we are all free to do. I am not a surfer, but may return to Kāwhia this summer to be challenging on those beaches again.
They are all of us.