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Grievance taken to world stage

Wairarapa Moana has called on the United Nations to hold the government to account for “breaching [its] human rights”.

In a statement to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples on April 18, Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation director Anne Carter said the group has been denied access to justice by the New Zealand government.

The statement came after Wairarapa Moana Incorporation – which says it represents “shareholders and descendants of the original owners of Wairarapa Moana” – said it is seeking a clear judgment from the High Court on the way the Bill of Rights Act and other provisions apply to their situation.

In its statement of claim, the group is asking the High Court to rule that the declaration of the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua Claims Settlement Act, and settling of the Wai85 claim, is inconsistent with section 23 [3] of the Bill of Rights, as well as sections of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles.

Carter told the forum that the New Zealand government took their land under the Public Works Act and now the group wants it back.

Before Wai85 was ratified, Wairarapa Moana had been seeking the direct return of the Pouakani land in the central North Island through a resumption order [a binding recommendation power the Waitangi Tribunal can exercise over former State-Owned Enterprise lands].

The site is currently occupied by the Maraetai Power Station.

Carter said Wairarapa Moana has the right to seek the return of the land under New Zealand domestic law but – by being included in a treaty settlement with Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua – their right to have their claim heard has been taken away.

“This was an egregious act by the New Zealand government against Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation,” Carter said.

She claimed the government breached the Treaty of Waitangi and forced a settlement of the group’s claim without free, informed, and prior consent.

Carter said the government violated Wairarapa Moana’s human right to have their claim and lawful rights heard and properly determined by the New Zealand courts, and had repeatedly acted in a way that was inconsistent with the intent and articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Carter said.

“The impact of the New Zealand government’s actions has been traumatic for our people, and the impact will transcend generations.”

Carter invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to visit New Zealand to investigate and report on the government’s actions.

She told the Times-Age that the Special Rapporteur had investigated the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2006, and if they were to investigate the actions of the government in relation to Wairarapa Moana, the outcome would likely be a report.

The day after Carter’s statement, New Zealand Human Rights Commission rongomau taketake [Indigenous Rights Governance Partner] professor Claire Charters called on the United Nations to hold the government to account for breaching Wairarapa Moana’s human rights.

Charters said that, as Wairarapa Moana claims, Parliament’s legislative overriding of their lands, territories, and resources – recognised by the independent Waitangi Tribunal and the Supreme Court – is of utmost concern.

“Such action is abhorrent to the rule of law, fundamental human rights, and Indigenous peoples’ rights under the Declaration,” Charters said.

Treaty Settlement Minister Andrew Little was approached, but had not responded at time of print.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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