Ngai Tai ki Tāmaki at Supreme Court for exclusive Gulf Islands rights

By Talisa Kupenga

Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki Tribal Trust's Supreme Court appeal for exclusive rights to Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands started today in Wellington.  Iwi chairman James Brown says the iwi is fighting for its rights after the Crown breached Treaty principles by granting tourism concessions which iwi objected to.

Ngai Tai ki Tāmaki is back in court for what it calls the unlawful granting of concessions on DOC land in its region.

Iwi Chairman James Brown says, "For Ngai Tai in, particularly in its ancestral landscapes of Rangitoto and Motutapu, we firmly believe we are the keepers of manaakitanga (hospitality) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) in those landscapes."

Brown says as mana whenua iwi should have exclusive tourism rights on the islands and a right to veto commercial operations.  The case has already been before the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Brown says, "We asked if there was an error of law committed in the granting of concessions on those islands, the answer was yes, however it was a funny decision insofar as Judge [John] Fogarty then said, 'however, they then upheld the principles of the Treaty,' which we refute." 

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little says, "I don't know the detail in terms of the concession but I'd be surprised if DOC didn't consult with Ngai Tai ki Tāmaki.  It is a mana whenua issue and they have a right to have their voice heard on those sorts of issues."

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage was not willing to comment about the case before the court, her stance on Treaty breaches or whether or not she believes conservation has been put before the Treaty.

"As you know, it's before the courts so I can't make any comment."

In December the iwi also accused DOC of covering up the illegal burial of cows by a farmer on Motutapu.

Heritage New Zealand is investigating.

Brown says, "the whole burial was unconsented, the burial then compromised a midden site- hence, the interaction we've had with Heritage New Zealand."

The court case ends tomorrow.