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Four hapu from Whakatohea seek marine and coastal rights

The Waitangi Tribunal held week one of stage one hearings into the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 at Waiwhetu marae in Lower Hutt this week.

The Tribunal heard from hapu claimants from around the motu with respect to a myriad of issues and concerns into the MACA application process and funding procedures they have undertaken since filing their applications by the statutory deadline, 3 April 2017. However, due to the expense of travel the majority of witnesses could not attend.

Hapu claimants allege that the procedural arrangements and resources provided by the Crown under the MACA Act prejudicially affect their customary marine and coastal rights in Treaty terms when seeking recognition of their rights.

Eleven Ngāti Ira hapu members travelled from Opotiki and presented their evidence in person on Monday afternoon ending their presentation with a Ringatū karakia for the victims of the Christchurch shootings and the two tangihanga in Opotiki.

“We had to be here in person to give our evidence so that the Tribunal and the Crown understand who they are talking to. They need to start talking to the right people. Hapu along our coastline have exercised our rights since pre-1840. It is only right that we participate to protect those rights, not just from the Crown, but from other iwi entities laying blanket claims soley for purposes of protecting their relationship with the councils for harbour development initiatives and operating commercial enterprises. Hapu are capable of managing their own interests” says Te Ringahuia Hata, who presented evidence this week.

Mr Te Rua Rakuraku, pou tikanga from Ngāti Ira stated “I tae-ā-tinana mai a Ngāti Ira ki te titiro, ki te whakarongo ki nga kōrero. Kei te tautoko mātou o Ngāti Ira i ngā hapu katoa o roto o Te Whakatōhea kāore i tae mai, me ngā hapu katoa kei roto i tēnei kaupapa kei te whawhai mō to rātou takutai moana”

The Whakatohea Trust Board have already undergone a Ministrial Inquiry last year, came under scrutiny in the Wai 2662 Inquiry for their close relationship to the Whakatohea Pre-settlement Trust and now, under the lens of the Wai 2660 Inquiry panel, this time for a blanket claim they have filed despite four hapu in Whakatōhea filing their own applications for recognition orders.

“Ngāti Ira are mirroring exactly what Ngātiwai ki Whangaruru hapu claimants went though before us so it was great to catch up with them this week in Poneke. Their Trust Board has laid a blanket claim as well but by supporting each other’s journey, we are able to share information and strategies to take on the Crown in respect to protecting our rohe moana. Hapu and whanau are all in this together and I will support them all” says Ms Hata.

Applications for High Court orders for recognition of protected customary rights and customary marine title had to be made by 3 April 2017. There are 202 active marine and coastal recognition applications and 385 applications for recognition agreements through Crown engagement currently being administered and managed by the Crown-Māori Relations - Te Arawhiti office, who are also responsible for Treaty Settlements, Māori Crown Relations and Settlement Committments.

The four Whakatohea hapu that have applied for recognition orders in 2017 are Ngati Ira, Ngai Tamahaua, Ngati Patumoana and Te Upokorehe. Whanau claimants such as the Mokomoko whanau have also joined the Takutai Moana Inquiry.

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