Customary rights trump law in coastal judgement

One of a number of billboards around our cities drawing attention to the actual name of our country, not the mythical name that is being quietly imposed. Our petition calling on the Prime Minister to delete any reference in official communication to any name for our nation other than New Zealand may be signed at

Customary rights trump law in coastal judgement

A High Court decision to award customary marine title over an estuary between Tauranga and Mount Maunganui to five tribal groups puts Maori customs and beliefs (tikanga) above law and overrides an Act of Parliament.

Justice Grant Powell’s decision (Re: Reeder and Orrs) dated October 12, 2021, under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011, gives five tribal groups legal rights over the estuary below the high tide mark.

Nga Potiki, Ngati Pukenga, Ngati He, Ngai Tukairangi and Ngati Tapu will manage the title under a joint entity known as Nga Papaka O Rangataua.

Customary marine title gives the right of veto over development, the ability to charge fees for use of slipways, wharves, aquaculture areas, and marinas, and exclusive rights to mine iron-sand and minerals.

Accessing customary marine title areas without permission is punishable by a fine of up to $5000, which is five times the penalty for trespassing on private property that has no Maori connection.

The Tauranga applicants circumvented the problem of having to show exclusive use and occupation of the area since 1840 without substantial interruption by forming a new joint entity.

The estuary is surrounded by the Tauranga urban area which would substantially interrupt exclusive use and occupation there.

Justice Powell further circumvented the requirement for evidence of exclusive use and occupation of the area since 1840 by declaring that “exclusive use and occupation in s 58(1)(b)(i) does not in fact require exclusivity”.

This is directly opposite to assurances given by former Prime Minister John Key while his government was promoting the legislation. Key said that only small pieces of the coast may come under customary marine title and that “will be the bit they can prove they used exclusively since 1840”. See

The judgement then accepted evidence that the various groups had held the area according to tikanga (customary rights), awarded title to five groups, and said there was insufficient evidence to support the inclusion of Ngati Ruahine and Ngai Te Ahi in the title.

Justice Powell built on the Churchman decision in May this year that granted another Bay of Plenty iwi customary title to several marine areas around Opotiki. This was despite having their claimed exclusive occupation of the area interrupted by having land confiscated. See Appeal needed

The concept of tikanga was at the heart of that case as well.

Justice Powell’s decision overrides the Tauranga Foreshore Vesting and Endowment Act 2015 by saying that the Act did not extinguish the customary rights of Te Tahuna Rangataua because it failed to identify the foreshore said to have been invested in the Tauranga Harbour Board.

Commentator Anthony Willy, a former Judge, wrote of the Churchman decision relating to Opotiki that it is simply not tenable to import spiritual beliefs and ancient codes of conduct such as tikanga into the fabric of the contemporary common law of New Zealand because the law needs to be precise.

A waffly explanation of tikanga, provided in the Powell judgement about the Tauranga estuary, ended up by saying that “tikanga can refer to anything normal or usual”. If that was intended as a definition, it is too vague to meet the requirements of law.

How New Zealand started giving away areas of the coast to private groups is detailed here See Coastal claims undermine equal rights

Our petition which asks Parliament to amend the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 to restore public ownership of the coastal area, put all claims through the High Court, and repeal customary marine title, while affirming customary rights, has picked up more than 44,300 signatures. We need your support. The petition may be signed at

Border squabble a foretaste of He Puapua in action

Auckland tribe Ngati Whatua is defending the management of the border between Northland and Auckland.

Radio New Zealand reported this week that “Hone Harawira (Ngati Hau, Ngati Wai, Ngati Hine, Te Aupouri, Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua), who coordinates border control further north between Whangarei and Kawakawa, criticised the mahi happening further south”. See Ngati Whatua defends border management

[Radio New Zealand didn’t bother to translate “mahi” but for those who don’t know, it means “work” or “activity”.]

Tribal borders feature in a radical plan, known as He Puapua, for two governments for New Zealand, one “for Maori by Maori” and the other, a fully bicultural version of what we already have.

Tribal borders will bring squabbling between tribes, and that is what we have here. Aren't the police supposed to police the roads?

We have collected nearly 20,000 signatures on a petition against the He Puapua plan. Click here to sign  Reject co-governance  and like and share the petition page.

Napier finally decides to set aside two Maori roll seats

The Napier City Council voted, on October 20, to set aside two seats for Maori roll voters by 2025.

The vote was carried 11 votes in favour with one abstention. See Maori wards for Napier

The council carried out a five-month consultation which resulted in 1300 submissions with 54 percent opposed to setting aside Maori roll seats.

At least two of Napier's 12 councillors (plus a mayor) have Maori ancestry, while there are eight iwi positions on the council’s Maori committee.

The Council was able to ignore public opinion because earlier this year the Ardern Government removed section 19Z, clauses A to G, from the Local Electoral Act 2001.

Those clauses enabled a binding referendum by all affected residents if five percent of eligible voters petitioned for a vote.

Before the law changed on March 1 this year, three councils had Maori wards.

Once resident polls were banned, 35 of the country’s 78 councils either thought that racial voting on council was “bold and wise” or caved into activist pressure (which was what happened in Napier).

Ten councils would not be eligible to establish the wards due to their low Maori population.

If the issue was put out to the people of Napier to decide, and if a majority voted for a Maori ward, then widespread support for the move would be unquestioned.

The Napier City Council was able to put the matter out to a vote but chose not to.

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