A high court hearing which could have a significant impact on local hapū claim to coastal areas is underway in Masterton.
Applications for Customary Marine Titles [CMTs] and Protected Customary Rights [PCRs] are being heard six years after the application due date.
The High Court of Wellington is overseeing the proceedings, and due to the applicant’s request, the case is taking place at the Copthorne Hotel in Solway, Masterton.
The Marine and Coastal Area [Takutai Moana] Act came into effect on March 31, 2011, replacing the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004.
The new legislation meant that iwi could seek customary rights and title, through providing evidence of exclusive use and occupation of an area since 1840.
Seven iwi and hapū groups have submitted applications seeking CMT and PCR recognition, some representing multiple other groups.
Applicants are Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-ā-Rua, Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Rangitāne Tamaki nui-ā-Rua, Ngāi Tūmapūhia-a-Rangi hapū, Ngāti Hinewaka, the iwi of Te Atiawa, Tukōkō, Ngāti Moe and Te Hika o Pāpāuma Mandated Iwi Authority.
Rangitāne Wairarapa opened the hearing with a powhiri for the judge and visiting lawyers.
The proceedings are expected to last several weeks with closing submissions scheduled to take place in Wellington at the end of October.
Legal representatives for the Crown, South Wairarapa District Council, and the seafood industries are involved as interested parties.
Customary marine title provides elements of ownership and exclusive possession, but does not allow for the area to be sold, or restrict public access.
Protected customary rights refer to the rights to activities and uses that are practised according to tikanga [traditional customs and values].
Generally, protected customary rights don’t include fishing and commercial aquaculture.
Once customary rights are legally recognised, approved activities can be done without needing local council resource consent. Additionally, local district councils can not approve resource consents for activities which would affect protected customary rights in any way, unless there is a pre-arranged agreement.