Marine and Coastal Area [Takutai Moana] Act 2011 High Court hearings are in Masterton for their final days before shifting back to Wellington.
The hearings, which will be a step towards customary rights and titles, have been heard over the last three weeks in Masterton after an application by tangata whenua for their cases to be heard locally.
The current group of claimants comprise primarily of hapū from along the eastern coast of the North Island.
The proceedings for this group will determine who has customary interests in the area of coast that stretches from the Whareama river and down to Turakirae Head at Palliser Bay.
This group includes claimants and interested parties from Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu iwi.
Lawyer Charl Hirschfeld, who is representing Te Hika o Pāpāuma, said these hearings would work to legally formalise customary rights that were already in place.
Te Hika o Pāpāuma submitted their application to cover the coast from the Whareama river mouth [south point] up to Poroporo.
It is at the Whareama river mouth where a slight overlap is seen with the current claimants.
Hirschfeld, who is Ngāti Porou himself, has worked on treaty claims for the better part of his career and is well-versed in the process.
Hirschfeld said that neighbourly relations are critically important.
“When you claim an interest, part of the test is ‘what do the neighbours say about that?’”
Hirschfeld said that these hearings are “to mark out, finally, recognition of long-standing interests for the record so that future generations may benefit from that recorded knowledge.”
Proceedings are expected to last four more weeks though an outcome isn’t expected for several more months, or maybe years, as these are only Stage 1[a].
Under the Takutai Moana legislation, customary rights and interests will be recognised in three different capacities.
Participation in conservation processes will continue as they do already for “affected iwi, hapū or whānau,” and customary kaitiakitanga [guardianship] will also continue to be recognised.
Protected customary rights [PCR], and customary marine titles [CMT] are the other ways in which customary interests will be recognised.
The current Takutai Moana proceedings can be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, Hirschfeld said.
“Some of these cases there’s several in the court of appeal already.”