South Taranaki iwi hurt by 'racist' system over seabed mining

By Taroi Black

If Māori wards had been established, a fight to Supreme Court level against an application for seabed mining might never have had to happen.

That's according to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust deputy chair Ngapari Nui, who said that at the start of the application by Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTRL) to do seabed mining, the South Taranaki District Council held a meeting with iwi liaisons. But instead of waiting for them to consult their iwi, the then-mayor had refused them time to do so. In addition, Ngāti Ruanui iwi members including Nui only found out about the application the day the meeting was held.

Nui argues that had there been a Māori ward on that council, the iwi would have been consulted and the matter might have been resolved. 

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust welcomed the announcement from local government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to remove the 5% ratepayers petition against councils' Māori wards decisions.

"It will mean that we have someone on the table who will have more of a say around pushing those kaupapa through," Nui said.

The wait continues for the iwi on a decision from the Supreme Court over the Trans-Tasman Resources case. The iwi has previously won in the High Court and Court of Appeal. 

'Racist-driven clauses'

The application lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in 2016 for marine consents and marine discharge consents to extract and process five million tonnes of iron sand per year, for up to 35 years within the South Taranaki Bight. This area covers 65.76sq m of seabed between 22-36 kilometres offshore in waters between 20-42 metres deep. 

The legislative move by the government yesterday is long overdue, Nui says. 

"The changing of the act and allowing us to have a representative in a way is helping to build a better relationship."

Te Rūnanga Tumu W’akaae Haimona Maruera believes the provisions of the Local Electoral Act are "racist-driven clauses" that only apply polling referendums to Maori wards and no others. 

“For too long we have witnessed communities taking sides and communities being pulled apart over local Māori representation,” Maruera said.

Te Ao Marama asked Trans-Tasman Resources for comment.