23 Dec 2016

Iwi wins 'long and drawn out battle' for island marine rights

3:09 pm on 23 December 2016

Rakiura Māori have won a long battle for management rights over harvesting kaimoana from two Foveaux Strait islands.

The High Court has granted customary marine title over two of the islands, off the coast of Stewart Island.

Stewart Island

The Tītī islands are off the coast of Stewart Island (pictured). Photo: AFP

Local iwi have been harvesting traditional kai from Pohowaitai and Tamaitemioka for centuries.

Denis Tipene applied for the title to protect paua beds.

"All the islands are the same down in Rakiura, we're all getting pilfered by paua and kina divers."

The case had been difficult, he said, but worth it.

"It's a bit hard really to think now what we all went through. Now we've got the result - it feels really good. Tikanga in action, that's what it is."

Tamaitemioka and Pohowaitai, two of the Titi Islands south-west of Stewart Island.

Tamaitemioka and Pohowaitai - at top left - two of the Tītī Islands south-west of Stewart Island. Photo: LINZ

The test required Mr Tipene to prove his hapū had used two small islands in the Foveaux Strait to gather kaimoana since te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed in 1840, said his lawyer Christine Batt.

"It's been a long and drawn out battle to bring it to the judgement.

"I think it may provide encouragement to people who are considering filing these claims."

She said the tiny islands were unique. They were in a remote area and only used by the owners to gather kaimoana and muttonbirding.

"If there was anywhere in New Zealand that a custom marine order should be made, it would be these islands."

Rakiura Māori will hold a hui to discuss the decision and Mr Tipene says it will be a great Christmas celebration.