Hapū may get more authority over "Hole in the Rock" Motu Kōkako

By Heeni Brown

Ngāti Kuta and Ngāti Patukeha who have made customary claims to the Bay of Island's "Hole in the Rock" under the Marine and Coastal area legislation, say they want meaningful engagement with tourism operators because the area is wāhi tapu.

Hapū representative Jamie Hakaraia Hurikino says their claim for customary marine title may give them more authority over Motu Kōkako (Hole in the Rock). 

Hakaraia Hurikino says "We can see that this law will help us better protect the cultural integrity of our wāhi tapu so that we can have the same rights tourism companies have."
The claim stretches from Taupiri in the south to Tapeka in the west, Tikitiki to the north and Motu Kōkako to the east.  

"We want to have discussions with them.  At the moment they have boats going through the island and we are still not happy with their treatment of our wāhi tapu and that's what we want better treatment of that wāhi tapu."

In 2014 the Motu Kōkako Ahuwhenua Trust who are owners of the island led a campaign against local tourism ventures for making a profit from the island.

Hakaraia Hurikino says his hapū aren't against tourism but are hoping the claim will push tourism companies to implement local hapū customs.

"They used to run karakia in the hole all the time, and maybe that's something we need to see again maybe a pōwhiri, I'm not sure. These are things we need to discuss but the thing is, that's something those companies don't want to talk about."

Te Kāea made contact with local tourism ventures and Fullers GreatSights general manager Charles Parker says, "At this stage, it’s too early for us to comment on how this process might unfold and any potential impacts on commercial operations. Fullers GreatSights remains open to and would welcome further opportunities for discussion with Ngāti Kuta and Patukeha."

Lawyers have advised hapū their claim to the customary marine title is likely to be settled in five years.