Minister for Treaty Negotiations Andrew Little now expects marine and coastal claims settled 'within 30 years'

Andrew Little expects iwi and hapu customary marine and coastal claims will now all be settled in up to 30 years, instead of a century.
Andrew Little expects iwi and hapu customary marine and coastal claims will now all be settled in up to 30 years, instead of a century. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

By Meriana Johnsen of RNZ

The government is putting more resources into iwi and hapu customary marine and coastal claims, which the Minister for Treaty Negotiations expects will now all be settled in up to 30 years, instead of a century.

A Waitangi Tribunal kaupapa inquiry found the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act is in breach of the Treaty because it had not funded all costs incurred by whānau, hapū and iwi going through the process.

It also found there was a lack of detailed policy and strategy for those going through the Crown engagement pathway, who had "fallen into a kind of administrative limbo".

There are currently 387 claims in total, which Minister for Treaty Negotiations Andrew Little said would take a century to work through.

"That is clearly unacceptable," he said.

"The feedback we've had from iwi, hapū and whānau is that it's taking way too long, it's too complex... we've now come up with another strategy that means we can bring down the period of time to resource all the outstanding claims to between 10 and 20 years.

"Under the new strategy, the Crown will engage with all iwi, hapū, and whānau groups across 20 coastal areas to timeframes informed by applicants."

Iwi, hapū and whānau claimants would be better resourced to research and establish their claims, he said.

"For those that are ready and willing and able to come together within groups - bearing in mind the nature of the coastal claims is there is typically multiple claimants to a particular stretch of coastline - we will now be able to get on and get engaged and they will see some action sooner rather than later," Little said.

Three-step process

Crown engagement would begin in the coming months.

It will create a three-step process of initial engagement; research and evidence gathering; and determination and recognition, which would either be considered by the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations or the High Court.

The Takutai Moana Act replaced the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act, although unlike its predeccessor, it says neither the Crown or any other person owns the foreshore and seabed.

However, it does offer iwi and hapū - who can prove they have exclusively used and occupied the foreshore and seabed since 1840 without substantial interruption - two types of rights: customary marine title and protection customary interests.

Customary marine title enables hapū and iwi to exercise legal rights in resource consent process, ownership of non-Crown minerals and protection of wāhi tapu, while protected customary rights allows hapū and and iwi to undertake a traditional activity like launching a waka or gathering hāngi stones with a resource consent.

The High Court recently ruled in favour of granting six hapū of Whakatōhea protected customary and customary marine title, only the second time the new legislation has been tested.

It gave Ngāi Tamahaua, Ngāti Ruatakenga, Ngāti Ira, Ngāti Ngāhere, Ngāti Patumoana and Ūpokorehe customary marine titles.

Another hearing will be held early next year to define the paricular boundaries of the six hapū who were granted customary title, but the Ngāti Muriwai, Ngāti Ira o Waioweka, Te Uri o Whakatōhea Rangatira Moko, Ngāi Tamahaua, Te Upokorehe and Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board had their protected customary rights recognised, which were different for each hapū.