17 Sep 2018

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei allowed to take claim to High Court

7:42 pm on 17 September 2018

The Supreme Court has approved an appeal by an Auckland iwi to stake their interest and rights within Auckland central.

Supreme Court in Wellington, Coat of Arms

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In a decision released today, the Supreme Court said Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei can now take its case against the Crown to the High Court.

However, the Treaty settlement Ngāti Whātua was protesting - will not be allowed to be challenged.

A Supreme Court hearing in May was the final chance for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to have its case heard at the High Court over its land rights in central Auckland.

Previous attempts to have its case heard failed both in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Now the Auckland iwi can argue its case, and its spokesperson Ngārimu Blair welcomes the Supreme Court's decision.

"They have convincingly stated that we should have access to the high court which has been blocked now for a few years by the Crown," Mr Blair said.

"Now we can have access to it to lay our claim to Auckland and hear other challenges to central Auckland."

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei objected to the proposed transfer of commercial properties in central Auckland to Ngāti Pāoa and Marutūāhu as part of their Treaty settlement packages.

The Supreme Court said they could not challenge the proposed decision to transfer the specified properties.

However, Mr Blair said there had been serious questions raised about the transfer process.

"So we are encouraged by that particularly in the case we can now challenge these offers by the Crown in the High Court."

And Mr Blair said the Crown and Marutūāhu would be foolish not take the Supreme Court's ruling seriously.

"We are calling on the minister, Andrew Little, now to take heed of the concerns that have come out of the Supreme Court.

"Come back to the table with us and Marutūāhu come back ... our door's always been open at the marae at Ōrākei."

In a statement, the decision has also been welcomed by Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust which was named as a second respondent in the decision.

Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust removed itself from the case but agreed to abide by the outcome, because it supported Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust in its appeal.

"The decision vindicates Ngāti Paoa's decision to stand aside and support Ōrākei seeking recognition of its customary rights to land that Ngāti Paoa was to receive in its Treaty settlement. We were willing and able to do that because we had engaged in a robust tikanga process and had acknowledged each others' interests in a mana enhancing way," Haydn Solomon, Kaiārahi of Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust said.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little would not comment on the Supreme Court's decision.

However, former treaty negotiation minister Chris Finlayson said he did not know how far Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei could takes its case with the new judgement.

Mr Finlayson said Ngātua Whatua needed to take a look at its approach to overlapping Treaty issues.

"They seem to think they have hegemony in central Auckland which doesn't square with the history - it was a heavily overlapped area."

The Crown and the Marutūāhu Collective - a group of five iwi, initialled a Collective Redress Deed in July which is currently in the process of being ratified by the collective's iwi members.

The Supreme Court's decision still allows the passage of the Marutūāhu Collective Treaty settlement to continue.

For the Marutūāhu collective chairman Paul Majurey, the supreme court decision does not change the settlement process.

"For us we're proceeding with the Marutūāhu settlement that's been initialled we're going through ratifications and if all goes well our people will support the settlement."

Mr Majurey does see an opportunity to reach an agreement with Ngāi Whātua Ōrākei (NWO) without more litigation.

"There is that potential if what is being sought, as previously said by NWO, is a veto in their world that they are the only tribe with mana whenua (and) ahi kā in central Auckland then that wouldn't be a basis for agreement."

Mr Blair said Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei would make a decision about its potential legal proceedings in the next few days.

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