Recently the Ngātiwai Trust sent a letter to Treaty Settlement Minister, Hon. Andrew Little, requesting confirmation that several Hauraki Settlements will be paused pending the outcome of an urgent inquiry.
The Ngātiwai Trust Board submitted an urgent hearing application to the Waitangi Tribunal in July 2017 to ask the Tribunal to look into the Crown’s flawed overlapping claims processes and redress offered to various Hauraki groups within the Ngātiwai rohe and particularly in relation to Aotea (Great Barrier).
Ngātiwai Treaty Claims Committee Chairman, Aperahama Edwards says “We have asked the Crown to confirm that they have put a pause on the Hauraki Settlements while our claims are being heard under urgency by the Waitangi Tribunal.”
“As a result of this inquiry we would expect that no further steps are taken by the Crown to advance any of the Hauraki settlements involved until the Waitangi Tribunal has completed the inquiry and presented their report.”
“Some of our whānau that have logged their own individual applications for urgency unfortunately had their requests dismissed. We encourage them to work with our team to ensure their voices are still heard.”
Through the hearing process it is hoped that the Tribunal can give some definitive recommendations on an improved process consistent with tikanga and what mana whenua and ahikaa means and how that impacts on the Crown’s behaviour and decisions.
Stage One of the MACA Kaupapa Inquiry about to get underway
The Ngātiwai Trust Board filed a statement of claim with the Waitangi Tribunal on 4 July 2018 in relation to the Marine and Coastal Area (MACA) inquiry. The MACA inquiry is targeted at the legislative framework and applications process established under the MACA Act.
The inquiry will address two main questions:
1) To what extent, if at all, are the MACA Act and Crown policy and practice inconsistent with the Treaty in protecting the ability of Māori holders of customary marine and coastal area rights to assert and exercise those rights
2) Do the procedural arrangements and resources provided by the Crown under the MACA Act prejudicially affect Maori holders of customary marine and coastal area rights in Treaty terms when they seek recognition of their rights?
“Once our applications were lodged we became trapped in a procedural process that does not provide sufficient resources to allow us to protect our customary rights in the takutai moana from being extinguished.”
“Substantive issues set out in our Statement of Claim have yet to be addressed in Stage Two and this will come with considerable costs that are unlikely to be properly funded based on our experience to date”
The hearings for this inquiry have been scheduled to take place in Wellington from 25 to 29 March 2019 and again from 27 to 29 May 2019. The Board is currently preparing evidence for stage one of this inquiry.
Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act - High Court Process
The Board filed Ngātiwai wide “blanket” applications with the High Court and the Crown before the deadline of 31 March 2017. This was done to protect Ngātiwai rights in the coastal marine are from being extinguished as a matter of law.
Aperahama Edwards says “The test in the Act requiring exclusive occupation to be proven are inappropriate in the Northland context as we do not all fit into the nice tidy boxes that the Crown expects of us. The number of overlapping applications demonstrates this which is why we are looking closely at the idea of shared exclusivity that was discussed in the first ever case determined in the High Court”
“Even if you can meet the exclusive occupation test under the MACA Act the rights available in this legislation are weak by comparison to what the Crown can do. For example, the Crown can still put a Marine Reserve over an area without permission from Maori rights holders.”
“The Board has supported all Ngātiwai whanau, hapū and marae applications in principle. This is because the issue of who should be the holders of any rights is yet to be determined through the prescribed High Court processes. It will be very interesting to see how the High Court or the Maori Land Court deals with representation issues as compared to the Crown or the Waitangi Tribunal in relation to mandating issues”
The High Court hearings are not expected to commence before 2021 on Ngātiwai applications as there are a number of prioritise applications that need to be worked through first.
The Board’s Treaty Claims Committee have been working on gathering information and developing a mediation options as recommended by the Waitangi Tribunal in its report on the mandate.
The Board’s Treaty Claims Committee have also requested kaumātua participation on the committee and a name change to better reflect this change.
With the MACA Kaupapa hearings and Hauraki hearings taking place in the first quarter of next year the committee have a lot of work ahead of them, but it is hoped that mandate related mediation can get underway in the New Year if a mediation process can be agreed with affected hapū.