It was a sight not seen for many years in Auckland's central business district this morning as hundreds of Ngāti Whātua representatives marched to the Auckland High Court to begin the hapū'scase challenging the Crown's approach to the rights of mana whenua in its rohe.
The case is the latest development in a six-year legal battle by the tribe to assert its exclusive legal rights as mana whenua and challenge the Crown's proposal to transfer land within Auckland central to the Hauraki-Marutūahu Collective redress.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei claimed in its opening address to High Court Judge Mathew Palmer, “Other parties’ dispute Ngāti Whāua Ōrākei’s factual/tikanga pleading that, through ahi kā since the mid 18th century it has customary rights known as mana whenua.”
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei also maintains that the “the Crown has disregarded Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s mana whenua and ahi kā," and that “No one has a credible claim in these areas, apart from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, no mana whenua.”
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei was joined by iwi from Tauranga, and also some iwi from the North on the 7km long hīkoi from Ōrākei marae to the High Court at Auckland, iwi which have also made claims against the Crown for failing to recognise ahi kā and mana whenua customary rights.
One of the key issues Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei argued in the High Court is, “This is a manifestation of an adherence to a general policy on “overlapping claims” whereby the Crown sidesteps fundamental tikanga considerations.”
Justice Matthew Palmer, who is presiding over the 10-week-long civil litigation case, asked, “If there is a obligation on the part of the Crown to comply with tikanga in its dealings with iwi, is there also that same obligation when iwi are dealing with each other?”
The first two days are set for Ngāti Whātua to lay out i's case before the response from the Office of Treaty negotiations, Hauraki-Marutūahu Collective. (Proceeding)