Ngāti Kahu seek binding recommendations for return 6000+ ha

By Dean Nathan

Ngāti Kahu is seeking binding recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal for the return of over 6000 hectares held in State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Forests.

The case is the subject of a judicial conference this week following a Court of Appeal decision in their favour.

But the conference heard counsel for the Crown pushing for a return to the beginning of these claims over 30 years ago.

"It's been conducted over a long period.  It's not as if these things are fresh.  So in those circumstances, we say the safer course is to remain with the default and start again."

Ngati Kahu's chief negotiator Professor Margaret Mutu said, "We filed these claims in 1984 so for me, I started this stuff in 1982.  Basically, they're asking us to go back more than 30 years so that's the argument here now.  The tribunal didn't give us binding recommendations last time.  And we do need to take the tribunal into consideration, they've been under threat for a very long time that if they ever make them they'll be abolished."

While the provision for binding recommendations was made in the Muriwhenua Report back in 1997 the tribunal is yet to make an order with counsel for the Crown pondering the enormity of costs.

"In the circumstances of this new inquiry that relief is very significant, it runs to potential resumption recommendations that'd be multi-million-dollar remedies."

Professor Mutu said, "If the tribunal upholds the claims that they are well founded then it can order the lands to be returned so Maori don't have to pay for them the way they have to pay for them under settlements.  It doesn't extinguish all your other claims and it doesn't remove your mana or your sovereignty as the settlements do."

Judge Carrie Wainwright leads a whole new panel of the Waitangi Tribunal on this matter following the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the appeal by Ngati Kahu in its continued quest for binding recommendations for the return of 6032 hectares including State Owned Enterprise lands held by Landcorp and Crown Forests.

Ms Mutu said, "We're here to fight for the tribunal not only to hear the claim but to get on with doing what the Court of Appeal ordered them to do.  It didn't ask them, they didn't advise them they told them, make the binding recommendations."

The judicial conference wraps up today.