Iwi appeals DOC decision to gift land to Moriori

By Tema Hemi

Plans by the Department of Conservation to gift 1,200 hectares of land to Moriori on the Chatham Islands are being challenged in the Court of Appeal today in Wellington. 

The Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust claim they have the rights to the land as mana whenua. 

The Director of Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Asset Holding Tom McClurg says, "Our view on the Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri side is that shared interest are best dealt with by shared arrangements.  So either land should stay with DOC [The Department of Conservation] and then the Crown can deal with both iwi as Treaty partners or, if its vested, the vesting should involve both iwi. 

"Both Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and Moriori have overlapping customary interest in Taia."

In 2017, the government decided to vest the Taia Historic Reserve at the heart of the dispute to the Moriori people- that is, until legal proceedings were undertaken.

McClurg says, "We hope that the Court of Appeal will accept that the Crown has Treaty responsibilities to both iwi."

Chairman of the Hokotehi Moriori Trust Maui Solomon takes a different view, 

"Their argument, essentially, is that Moriori are a conquered people and we have no rights on our own island which we think is a fairly outdated and outmoded and unhelpful attitude for them to be taking. 

"Over the past few years we've actually invested a half million dollars in protecting the ngāhere...[Moriori] tree carvings, we've gotten rid of wild cattle, we've been doing a lot to restore the ecology of the land."

"Our expectation is that the appeal will fail and that's what we hope, justice will be done."