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Tikanga Māori Supports Successful Westhaven Decision For Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

In a decision made by the High Court, the Environment Court has jurisdiction to consider, and make findings about, the relative strengths of hapu and iwi relationships in an area affected by a resource consent application – delivering a successful outcome for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

Chapman Tripp acted for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in the Environment Court and the High Court on this preliminary question of law.

The Environment Court was asked whether it has jurisdiction to determine whether an iwi group holds ‘primacy’ of mana whenua over an area that is the subject of a resource consent application. The Environment Court reframed the question from being about ‘primacy’ to whether it had jurisdiction to determine the ‘relative strengths of hapū/iwi relationships’ – which it answered affirmatively.

Ngāti Maru Trust, Te Ākita o Waiohua Waka Taua Incorporated Society and Te Patukirikiri Trust appealed the Environment Court’s decision to the High Court, challenging, among other things, the Environment Court’s jurisdictional finding. The High Court upheld the Environment Court’s finding on jurisdiction, confirming that resource consent decision-makers do have jurisdiction to enquire into hapū/iwi relationships in an area where it relates to a specific resource management issue.

The High Court’s decision will ultimately help to guide the resolution of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s substantive appeal relating to the conditions imposed by Auckland Council on the resource consent granted to Panuku Development Auckland for its pile mooring development at Westhaven Marina.

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Chapman Tripp partner Laura Fraser and Senior Associate Nicola de Wit appeared for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in the High Court, supported by a team of experts from the firm’s Māori legal group. The High Court case was developed in partnership with the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei internal team and external advisors.

Chapman Tripp’s Māori legal group, Te Waka Ture, has a long-standing relationship with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, assisting on litigation in the Supreme Court and Waitangi Tribunal, together with strategic advice relating to the protection of its mana whenua interests.

Commenting on the outcome, partner Laura Fraser said, “This is a significant win for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, and we hope to see its effect observed beyond the Council/Panuku arena.”

Next, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s substantive appeal on the resource consent conditions applying to the Westhaven development will be heard by the Environment Court, now guided by this High Court decision.

The firm’s Te Waka Ture team specialises in corporate structuring, governance, strategic and commercial advice for iwi and hapū, post settlement governance entities, Māori businesses, Māori land owning entities and clients looking to work with them.

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