24 Oct 2022

Space policy feedback: Māhia mana whenua want to protect principles

2:47 pm on 24 October 2022
Māhia Peninsula is in the northern part of Hawke's Bay and home to Rocket Lab's launch site

Māhia Peninsula is in the northern part of Hawke's Bay and home to Rocket Lab's launch site Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Consultation on new space policy has been rushed too quickly, says a mana whenua representative in Māhia.

The government is reviewing the New Zealand Space Policy and the Aotearoa New Zealand Aerospace Strategy, which are both out for consultation.

The strategy will set out a pathway to grow the space sector out to 2030, while the policy looks at values and objectives underpinning the country's space policies.

The small Hawke's Bay coastal township of Māhia is close to Rocket Lab's launch site, at the end of Māhia Peninsula.

There has been controversy over Rocket Lab's launches and its links to the military, although Rocket Lab has quashed this as "misinformation".

On the way to the small township of Māhia, signs on the side of the road read "No Space for War, Haere Atu [go away] Rocket Lab" and "Keep Space for Peace, Kāti [Stop] Rocket Lab".

A government-led consultation meeting was held in Māhia on 11 October.

But local Puti Moa, trustee of Tuahuru Marae, said many locals did not know about the consultation until the last minute.

"To be rushed in such a short time - like the majority of our people out here 'cause we have Rocket Lab, they weren't even aware of it," Moa said.

"Some of us have had to contact our marae to let them know what's going on - they had no idea - so there wasn't really a public notice of letting people know that these meetings were happening."

Although the space policy was out for consultation from early September until 31 October, consultation on the strategy was set to close on 12 October, the day after the meeting in Māhia. The government changed this after feedback.

"Our marae out here in Māhia need to take like a month to get their people together to actually hold a hui with themselves to discuss this issue. We've all just been given until the 31st of October to have a submission to be put in place," Moa said.

There were important principles mana whenua were concerned about, she said.

"We have a responsibility to protect and care for our taonga - including whenua, moana and te atea."

One concern was rangimārie or peace, to ensure space activity did not cause harm or support war.

"It's not just for our iwi out here, for our people, Rongomaiwahine, it's for the whole motu, for other iwi out there and other New Zealanders," Moa said.

Rocket Lab Monitor refers to itself as a "watchdog" group for Rocket Lab.

Its spokesperson, Sonya Smith, acknowledged the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) extension of the consultation deadline, but said there needed to be more information in the public domain.

"There's kind of a heap of wider education and engagement that needs to happen - not just Māori in Māhia who are most affected by rocket launches, or Māori in Christchurch who are part of aerospace mahi down there, but also the wider public and all Māori in terms of ensuring that the principles and ethics meet our treaty obligations."

In a statement, MBIE science, innovation and international policy general manager Iain Cossar said several avenues were used to inform the public about the meetings and consultation, including reaching out to the Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust.

"Our team has recorded all feedback shared at the meetings - as we have been doing in our other public meetings and consultation workshops, which we will feed into the process alongside written submissions.

"We have also committed to the Māhia community that we will continue to visit on a regular basis in the future to continue the discussion and understanding of the community's perspectives."

The Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

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