By Te Karere


In the Bay of Plenty, a blockade set up at a Matakana Island wharf to deter tourism charters from visiting the area has sparked online debate with strong advocates on both sides.


Te Panepane o Raumati on Matakana Island was blockaded to deter tourism with the aim of protecting the local environment and when the local media got hold of the story, it exploded on social media.


Matakana spokesman Matthew Tukaki says the articles were racist and inflammatory, “The article published by SunLive was absolutely inflammatory. I would describe it as click bait. Put up a headline that is certain to grab attention and you'll draw the audience in and you don't really care for the content. In fact, what SunLive didn't do, and they've got a record of doing this, is that they weren't curating the comments being left by users.”


He also adds the situation was made worse by the encouraging of hateful comments, “A whole lot of people were commenting saying things like pesky Māori’s, they're out of control again, they're doing this, how dare they… Right down to the comments of people suggesting that rescue helicopter services should be withdrawn. One individual who lives in Mt Maunganui commented saying: burn the island. Ridiculous!”


 The blockade has since been re-erected with barbed wire. Tukaki says that they will continue their blockade protest until the councils put steps in place to protect the island's environment.


Matakana locals have laid the challenge, and now the ball is in the council's court.