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Customary claims hearing continues

As High Court proceedings over customary marine rights continue in Solway this week, representatives from several iwi and hapū have provided evidence detailing their history of customary gathering on Wairarapa’s coast.

Over the past week and a half, the court has heard detailed information on the history and customs of different iwi and hapū that fall within or border the debated area of coast – stretching from Palliser Bay to Pōrangahau, the southern border of Hawke’s Bay.

A customary marine title would recognise the relationship of iwi, hapū, or whānau with a part of the marine or coastal area.

Activities that would be protected under customary rights, which are often rooted in tikanga Māori [customary behaviours and practices], include launching waka and collecting hangi stones, practices that were undertaken before 1840 and continue today.

Rangitāne kaumatua Mike Kawana told the court about his hapū and its connection to the coast during his evidence submission in the first week of proceedings, and later told the Times-Age that the coastal hapū are being supportive of each other’s claims.

Reon Kerr, who is the representative for Ngāti Hinewaka [a hapū based in Wairarapa’s southeast coast] as well as a rohe moana kaitiaki [ocean guardian] for Ngāi Tūmapūhia A Rangi [a hapū based further north along the coast] spoke in court about his connection to the coastal and marine areas of Wairarapa.

Kerr also disputed a previous claim that Ngāti Hinewaka doesn’t have customary interests in the coast north of Awhea.

Kerr said this hasn’t been his practical experience, stating that “I have dived for kaimoana there since I was a teenager”.

The coastal area holds significant emotional ties for Kerr, and he claims that Ngāti Hinewaka do have customary interests based on his own personal experiences and those of his whānau.

“I see my diving as a way to make my whānau feel loved and looked after,” he said.

Kerr is an experienced diver who takes on the task of diving for kaimoana for tangi and other events at the marae that have the community banding together to help.

The proceedings are expected to last several weeks, with closing submissions scheduled to take place in Wellington at the end of October.

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