Hundreds of hapū protect their rights under the customary marine title

By Ani-Oriwia Adds

A wave of iwi and hapū applications for the customary marine title is threatening to swamp government and court authorities trying to process them. The deadline for applications under the Marine and Coastal Area Act of 2011 was April 3, leading to a rush of filings from groups seeking to protect their rights.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson says they received approximately 380 applications for Crown engagement under the Marine and Coastal Area Act by the deadline of April 3rd. The majority of these were received in the 48 hours prior to the deadline.

Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell says, "the bill was originally created for Maori to apply for their interest in the foreshore and seabed in their particular areas throughout New Zealand. They have sent through their applications in the recent years and now the applications have closed and they will all be examined."

The Marine and Coastal Area Act restored rights for Maori that were removed by the Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004.

"None of us knew how big or small a number of applications coming in would be and that's the problem. The goal has been achieved, tribes can apply their interest for the Fore Shore Seabeds and now the government will go away to determine how it'll process and follow through with the claims under the Act."

It recognises customary marine title and customary rights - relating to marine areas from the high water mark to 12 nautical miles offshore

"This is what happens when applications are processed and someone is to determine for multiple people who has the right to the seabeds. This is one of the big problems in deciding on claims and this is an example of one of those situations."

The Ministry of Justice spokesperson says that officials are looking at the applications as a whole to develop an overall plan for this process.