Small East Coast town lifting off with Rocket Lab but local iwi feel locked out

Mahia is famous for its sensational surf and long sandy beaches but with the establishment of Rocket Lab you can now add space programme to this list.

Rocket Lab today launched NZ’s most significant foray into space. Source: Rocket Lab

Rocket Labs big business has brought with it opportunity to the less than 800 strong town on the East Coast of the North Island, but everytime they launch, the local iwi feels locked out.

The company has delayed the second test flight of its Electron rocket until early next year - one day out from the assigned launch window ending tomorrow.

During lift off attempts an exclusion zone must be set up around the peninsula for safety reasons, Moana Ronga from Ngati Rongomaiwahine says the whole process has been flawed due to a lack of initial consultation.

"Its part of our lives to go and collect shellfish, seafood, fisheries those sorts of things, but unfortunately we have to apply for a permit or it cannot happen until 24 hours before or 24 hours after (the launch) " he told 1 NEWS. 

After the shaky start a memorandum of understanding has been set up between Rocket Lab and the iwi to work closer together as launches become more frequent.

As those launches ramp up it means more customers for the local cafe scene, with the Beach Cafe having to employ more staff.

"Instead of two of us its four and during the days when they come in on their days off on Sunday we are flat out. I've got two extra staff for their breakfasts, their muffins and of course their coffees " Sandy Woodham the Beach Cafe owner told 1 NEWS.

Helping cater for the launch team also helps her bridge the gap during the quiet winter periods before the summer tourist season ramps up.

Accomodation is full up and the area is experiencing mini housing boom with properties snapped up quickly.

The Mayor of Wairoa Craig Little told 1 NEWS he is regretting not buying a holiday home there years ago.

"Everything that comes on the market is sold pretty quickly, it's put the place on the map."

Local iwi want to continue to be involved with the process and support the space race.

"We have been here 900 years and one thing we can guarantee is that we will be here 900 years as well. How long will Rocket Lab be here for? We hope for a long time we will be here and we want to make sure our rights as a tangatawhenua are respected."

So both the small town of Mahia and Rocket Lab can continue to reach new heights.