Poutini Ngāi Tahu warn council over mapping of wetlands on Māori land

4:59 pm on 31 March 2021

Poutini Ngāi Tahu has settled its legal action against West Coast Regional Council over the mapping of Māori land as protected wetland.

Kaiwaiwai wetland

Government environmental policy now requires councils to identify and map significant wetlands and natural areas (file picture). Photo: Aiden Bichen

The iwi has also fired a shot across the council's bows over the significant natural areas (SNAs) process, which it describes as another bid to confiscate land, and warned it not to "repeat its mistakes".

Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, on behalf of Ngāti Māhaki, challenged a wetland classification on the Makaawhio Māori Reserves around Jacobs River, and the Mahitahi Māori Reserves around Bruce Bay.

The case was filed last year, supported by Ngāti Waewae.

Ngāti Māhaki and Ngāti Waewae, together as Poutini Ngāi Tahu, argued the council and Department of Conservation had inaccurately mapped Māori land as 'significant wetland' as part of its proposed plan change 1.

The iwi argued the whenua had never been Crown land but the mapping effectively placed it under Crown control.

The initial mapping was done by reviewing aerial photos. At the iwi's request, the regional council hired an ecologist to do an on-the-ground investigation, which found that major areas of the mapped land were not 'significant wetland' at all.

Poutini Ngāi Tahu, with the support of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, agreed with DOC to settle the case based on the new mapping, but sounded a warning about SNAs.

"We are concerned that this is just one instance of the council taking a broadbrush approach to mapping and inappropriately removing property rights with the stroke of a pen."

Government environmental policy now requires councils to identify and map significant wetlands and natural areas, including native forest.

The iwi said it would be taking a magnifying glass to any other attempted classification of Māori-owned land.

"Poutini Ngāi Tahu will challenge the jurisdiction of the Crown to apply SNA classification to land that has never left Māori hands. We will see the Crown in court if they continue with this insidious, underhanded attempt to confiscate Māori land."

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