A Conversation about Matiatia

Recent History: In 2006, the Environment Court ordered a negotiated Plan Change for the flat land at Matiatia. During the litigation, Mayor Dick Hubbard negotiated a purchase of the land from Waitemata Infrastructure Limited (WIL) which gave ownership to the Council. While this brought WIL's plans to a halt (boutique hotel and other developments that seemed out of character in the prime transport gateway for the island), the rules for 10,000 m2 of development on the land are exceptionally broad. A developer could do almost anything, and there would be no place for submissions, as the case had already been argued and settled in 2006.

Present Neglect: The Council has done nothing with the land except to respond to various private parties who lease existing buildings for activities such as car and bike rental, accommodation booking, etc. The car park demand is increasing as more mainland workers move to Waiheke and commute to the city. Most would agree that while it is better than what might have happened, the gateway is shabby, ramshackle and dysfunctional as a gateway.

Matiatia Chaos

Risk: Matiatia is a hot spot. What that means is that until something permanent is planned and built on it, it is at risk of exploitation based on the policies of the day within Auckland Council and its CCO's. At any time, the Council can decide that the land should be sold to the highest bidder.

Landbank: To read the Council's thinking on Matiatia in 2009, click here.

Move to the Front Foot: It is time, before the Council turns active attention to Matiatia, for the communities and people of Waiheke Island to open a dialogue on what should happen there. This would have three stages:

  1. Develop a framework that sets boundary conditions
  2. Develop a plan
  3. Implement the plan

Below is a suggestion for a framework.  Note a framework is a way to start a conversation, and it is intended to generate light, not heat.

The importance of Matiatia 

When one steps off the boat, off the wharf and arrives on the land, in the middle of the foreshore, there is a picket fence. It surrounded the grave of Ropata Te Roa, the freed Taranaki slave who was given as Tuku, the lands of Matiatia by Wiramu Hoete, the kaumatua of the Ngati Paoa whanau living in Hangaura/Church Bay. Ropata owned ships and he transported the food and fuel from Waiheke that fed and warmed Auckland. When he died, he was buried just above the foreshore, and while all other evidence of Maori presence on the western landscape has vanished, except in records and memory, his grave remains... remembered, honoured and visible.

Urupa Ropata Roa

So let us consider this as a possible framework for Matiatia.

  • Invite Tangata Whenua and the Piritahi Marae in a partnership to build an educational marae at Matiatia.
  • Educational means that instead of international visitors having to go to Rotorua, visitors to Auckland can cross the waters of the Hauraki and experience their introduction to Maori culture on Waiheke.
  • The marae would provide jobs that have a connection to the traditional Maori arts, including waka building, furniture making, fabric weaving, food production
  • The marae would provide visitor accommodations, including communal sleeping as well as more conventional rooms
  • Part of the marae would include permanent affordable accommodations to ensure the staff and educators would live on site with a balanced economy
  • The marae would also serve as an aquaculture and native bush service, both educational and practical, as sustainable practices of water and land management would be demonstrated
  • Adjacent to the marae provide a series of shops and services.
    • A whare kai restaurant serving the much broader range of traditional Maori food than what is served today at a hangi
    • A shop selling Waiheke made goods, foods and wine
    • Services such as car, bike and ebike rental
    • This one will be controversial, but think about it... Ask the real estate companies to move out of Oneroa where they are dominant on an otherwise wonderful village, down to space at Matiatia to cater to newcomers. Then for them to set up a second office in Ostend to serve existing residents.
  • This one is more radical, but let's toss it in the conversation:
    • Move most of the cars out of Matiatia.
    • Put a narrow gauge rail that goes in a loop, up on the southern side of the wetlands and of Oceanview Road, tunnel under Mako St into Allison Park.
    • Make a stop there at the park's edge near Oneroa. Return to Matiatia on the northern side of Oceanview Road.
    • Make the train free, side entry, drop down curtains for bad weather, and contract it to be run by a group of narrow-gauge train enthusiasts
    • Under Allison Park, where the land dips down, build a 3 storey, underground carpark that is then covered in topsoil that levels the park landscape.
    • Convert the service lanes on the south side of Oneroa into the prime exit from the carpark, so Oneroa village no longer suffers hourly ferry traffic.
    • Having moved the cars out, except for the drop off and pickups, handicapped, taxis and buses, the carparks at Matiatia are eliminated.
  • Set aside the land closer to the foreshore, except for tapu urupa land, for festivals. The best jazz festival ever was the one in tents at Matiatia even when the cyclone hit
  • It should be noted that Gulf News (28 July 2005) reported the bore at Matiatia has very special water. Unlike all surface water, it has no post Hiroshima radioactivity. It is ancient water. It may also be thermal. Not sure what that means, but it's worth exploring.
  • It also should be noted that Gulf News recorded a visit by internationally renown dowser, Hamish Miller, who reported the largest energy line found in New Zealand runs right up the middle of Matiatia. Again, not sure what it means, but Miller reported it as there.

In essence, this is an idea for an educational and economic theme for eliminating the hot spot at Matiatia, but where the architecture is beautiful, with character and authenticity by referencing the traditional pre-European designs. When visitors come to New Zealand, they are fascinated by the existence of a living indigenous culture, not a historic artifact, but also not totally assimilated into the bland, franchised culture that has spread world-wide.

Waiheke has an interesting history in this. According to a witness when the marae at Blackpool was first mooted, the vast majority of supporters were not Maori, but residents who felt the island needed a marae for all peoples, regardless of ancestry or race. The role of tangata whenua in New Zealand changes the character of the nation to one of kaitiakitanga - that we are of the Earth and have an obligation to care for her and preserve her life-giving qualities for future generations.

This is a message that can be powerful for not just our nation, but the visitors who come to our far distant islands. At present, those visitors must go to Te Puia in Rotorua to get a glimpse, or the commercial enterprise of the Tamaki brothers. Both tend to be more photo opportunities than learning experiences.


At Matiatia, the first learning opportunity one experiences on approach by the sea is the Atawhai Whenua reserve, planted by pakeha Don Chappell. Imagine a visitor experience that includes some guided walking of the reserve, and when needed volunteer weeding and planting.

Beyond the educational, the gateway needs to be linked to the rest of the island commercially. Some of the Oneroa shops expressed concern that a development at Matiatia would take away business. This is a question of design. Some businesses make sense at the waterfront, but the key is to have an attractive linkage that then draws people up the hill. Building an open-sided (with drop-down weather protection) narrow-gauge rail that takes people to Oneroa will draw them up. Providing an ebike rental at the ferry will move others up the hill. Placing the rental cars underground in Alison Park will ensure the visitors walk over to Oneroa, but not tie up the streets. It's all in the design.

Of paramount importance is the design of the buildings and landscape. Late 20th century Kiwi architecture is cheap and uninspiring. For the most part, it is temporary... flat panels, box-like with too much money spent on paperwork and not enough on materials. The 21st century technology opens up whole new worlds in design. This is the community's front gate, it needs to be beautiful, with a local character that says Waiheke.

Is this the right idea for Matiatia? That will be for the community to decide. This web site welcomes other ideas and will post them as conversations as well.

  • WIL's 2003 idea was for a boutique hotel, a playground for the emerging comfortable class of Auckland. That is not unprecedented; a hundred years before WIL's idea, Matiatia was leased by the New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
  • Other folks have proposed low-income housing down there. Drawback with that one is that the site is cold and damp and probably a poor use of strategic space.
  • Perhaps it could become a permanent site for the pop-up Globe Theatre although the ferry fees might render that idea as commercially untenable.
  • It could of course continue to be an ever-expanding, ugly car-park, or see the council put up a multi-floor monument to the automobile.

Use the contact tab to set your conversation in motion.