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Waiheke Community Group Loses Appeal Battle, But Wins War For Māori Cultural Values

On Friday 19 June 2020, the High Court issued its judgement, dismissing SKP Inc’s Appeal against the decision of the Environment Court dated 13 December 2019 which refused to grant SKP’s rehearing application. Over the next week SKP will review the judgment and obtain legal advice about the next steps available, as well as consult with SKP members and supporters.

And while on the face of it, the High Court dismissal represents a further setback for SKP Inc in its attempt to stop the marina from going ahead at Kennedy Point Bay, the judgment also represents a significant win for environmental groups, iwi and community groups throughout New Zealand. Especially those who are fighting to protect the environment and Māori Cultural values and who feel they are either being excluded or not being heard.

In dismissing SKP’s appeal, Justice Gault acknowledged that while the Kennedy Point marina resource consent application was “not a single issue case, the issue of cultural effects was an important issue. This meant that the strong directions in Part 2 of the RMA to take Māori issues into account needed to be borne in mind at every stage of the process, substantively and procedurally.”

His Honour went on to state that if he had concluded there was new and important evidence, he “would have concluded that it might have affected the decision given the accepted importance of cultural effects to the Environment Court’s original decision and the strong directions in Part 2 of the RMA.” His Honour went on to say that he “would also likely have exercised the discretion to order a rehearing.”

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The High Court’s judgment therefore sends a clear and strong message to developers and to Council of the importance of Māori cultural values and considerations in resource consent applications.

David Baigent, Chairperson for SKP says “While SKP is clearly disappointed that it has lost the High Court appeal battle, we are proud to be winning the larger war, namely, in ensuring that Māori cultural values are given due consideration in resource consent applications. The High Court judgment at the very least confirms what SKP has said all along, which is that Māori cultural values and effects are important issues that developers cannot just choose to ignore. So while SKP may have lost its appeal, it also feels humbled that it has been able to achieve this important recognition and protection for all Māori.”

“This case should reassure Māori, iwi and hapu throughout New Zealand that if they are being excluded from developments requiring resource consent that may have adverse effects on their Māori cultural values, then those Māori, iwi and hapu have a right to be heard. Or a developer may risk having that consent reviewed by the Courts. This is an important protection to Māori cultural values. SKP has always known that this Court case is bigger than a marina or the interests of SKP, so while SKP would have also liked the High Court to have issued a rehearing, in being able to achieve this important outcome for Maori cultural values, SKP and the community do not feel defeated” say David Baigent.

Danella Roebeck, of The Ngati Paoa Trust Board who opposes the marina expressed disappointment and hope because of the judgment. “The Trust Board is disappointed that the High Court didn’t order a rehearing so that we could exercise our Kaitiakitanga as per Te Tiriti o Waitangi, however, thanks to the efforts of SKP, the judgment makes us hopeful that going forward iwi groups like the Trust Board will no longer be excluded from development considerations which affect our iwi. Maori voice is important and needs to be heard - the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are important and need to be upheld - this judgment hopefully ensures that in the future, it will be.”

SKP would like to thank its supporters, members and community for all the support they have given SKP.

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