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Supreme Court: Wai85 ruling complicated

Wairarapa Moana Incorporation has issued an impassioned plea to Parliament in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling regarding contentious Waikato land.
The Supreme Court ruled that a single claim – Wai 85, the site of the Maraetai hydroelectric power station in Pouakani, Waikato – needed to return to the Waitangi Tribunal.
The decision has the potential to slam on the breaks for the entire Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Claims Settlement Bill, due for its third reading in Parliament in three days’ time.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said the Waitangi Tribunal was “bound to reconsider the applications [Wai 85] afresh”, which saw Wairarapa Moana Incorporation [WMI] chair Kingi Smiler urging Parliament to act.
“We implore Parliament to remove our Wai 85 claim from the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Claims Settlement Bill and allow these issues to be dealt with separately.”
Should the settlement pass into law, it would prevent the Waitangi Tribunal from reconsidering Wai 85, despite the Supreme Court ruling.
“That’s a denial of due process and natural justice. It denies us our right to finally get a real remedy for our claims.”
He said the rest of the settlement should proceed next week without Wai 85.
“We have never wanted to hold up the other claims in this bill from being settled.
“That would be unfair on the other claimants.”
Smiler said it would be equally unfair for the issues in Wairarapa Moana’s claims, highlighted by the Waitangi Tribunal and the Supreme Court, to be obliterated by the settlement legislation. There has long been resistance from WMI about Wai 85’s inclusion in Ngati Kahungunu’s settlement.
Should Ngati Kahungunu’s bill pass into law, Wai 85 and WMI’s claim to the power station land, would be considered as a “settled historical claim”.
In a summary of the region’s wetlands, Wairarapa historian Gareth Winter said South Wairarapa Maori gifted Wairarapa Moana to the Crown in 1896.
In exchange, Maori kept fishing rights, and the Crown promised reserve lands beside the lake.
However, the Crown never delivered on the promised reserves but instead, in 1916, gave South Wairarapa Maori the Pouakani land, hundreds of kilometres away in Waikato.
In 1949, the Crown compulsorily acquired 787 acres of the Pouakani land as a site for the Maraetai Power Station, now owned and operated by Mercury NZ. Wairarapa Moana Incorporation and Trust, which represents shareholders and descendants of the Wairarapa Moana area, has been seeking the direct return of the 787 acres.
The Crown tried to extinguish Wairarapa Moana’s claim in the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Claims Settlement Bill.
Ngati Kahungunu settlement trust chair Haami Te Whaiti said he was hopeful the settlement would continue regardless of recent developments.
“From our perspective, this Supreme Court decision does not negatively reflect on our settlement.
“We are hopeful it will be able to continue progressing considering this decision.
“Our people made it clear to us last year that they did not want to wait any longer,” Te Whaiti said.
For Parliament to remove Wai 85 from the settlement bill before Tuesday, a member of parliament or minister would need to raise a supplementary order paper [SOP], which would be required to pass by majority vote.
As yet, no SOP has been raised. However, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little did not rule it out yesterday.
“The judgement was made Wednesday; I am considering advice from officials and Crown Law.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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