Conservation Minister responds to Ngāi Tahu board boycott

3:43 pm on 9 September 2020

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is rebutting claims by Ngāi Tahu that her recent appointments to the West Coast Conservation Board were unlawful.

Conservation board chairman Keith Morfett.

Conservation board chairman Keith Morfett. Photo: LDR / Lois Williams

Ngāi Tahu members of the board are boycotting meetings for the second time in twelve months, saying the Minister has not listened to their concerns about the board's makeup and disregarded her treaty obligations under the Conservation Act.

Sage said she had responded directly to Ngāi Tahu's deputy kaiwhakahaere Matapura Ellison who raised the concerns.

"I am confident in the process that was followed in making these appointments ... there is always a balance to be struck in appointing individuals who bring various perspectives to the table."

The minister approved a second term for board chair Keith Moffett, and replaced Buller member Coraleen White who had served two terms, with farming leader Katie Milne.

Before making the appointments, Sage had considered the interests of tangata whenua and consulted the Minister for Māori Development, as the law required.

The Conservation Act required ministers to consider the interests of nature conservation, natural earth and marine sciences, recreation, tourism and the local community including tangata whenua of the area, Sage said.

Ngāi Tahu also has the right to nominate at least two members to the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board.

"I, senior departmental officials, and Board members have been working to improve relationships and operations of the Board.

"I value the partnership between Ngāi Tahu and Te Papa Atawhai. I hope that all Ngāi Tahu members will continue to be part of the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board."

Board Chair Keith Morfett, who has been taking te reo lessons since the original row with Ngāi Tahu erupted last year, said he was disappointed with the iwi's decision.

The board has deferred a vote on a proposed climate change policy until Ngāi Tahu returns to the table.

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