Maori anger over Rena agreements

By Sonya Bateson

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Buddy Mikaere
Buddy Mikaere

Rena removal campaigner Buddy Mikaere says ignoring iwi wishes to have the wreck removed is like putting Maori through colonisation again.

Local iwi groups are heading to the Waitangi Tribunal today with claims the lack of Maori consultation around the future of the Rena wreck is a breach of the Treaty ofWaitangi.

Ngai te Hapu spokesman Buddy Mikaere (pictured) told the Bay of Plenty Times that under the Treaty, iwi had to be consulted before making any agreement about the future of Astrolabe Reef (Otaiti).

This consultation had not happened and a confidential agreement had been formed by the Crown and the Rena's owners and insurers, Mr Mikaere said.

"There's a serious Treaty breach by the Crown, which is to consult with us before entering into those secret agreements.

"If we say we want it removed and the Crown ignores that, that's similar to colonisation. Your opinion counts for nothing and we will just do what we want to do.

"Under the Treaty, the Crown must always practise good faith consultation with Maori - there's been no consultation with us."

Mr Mikaere said he had sighted a document that said if the Crown assisted the Rena's owners and insurers to gain resource consent to leave the shipwreck, they would pay the Crown $10.4 million.

Under the Tribunal process, these documents would have to be revealed, he said.

Mr Mikaere said this was not just an iwi issue.

"This isn't just a beef with us. It should be for everyone in Tauranga because no-one has been consulted.

"We're asking the Crown to look real hard to see has there been a Treaty breach. The outcome we're asking for is for the Tribunal to ask the Crown for wreck removal."

The tribunal would also be asked to look at Maritime New Zealand's removal notice issued to the owners and insurers in 2011 to ask why it had not been enforced.

A win for the iwi groups would bolster the fight against the resource consent application to leave the shipwreck in situ from Rena's owner and insurer, under the name Astrolabe Community Trust.

Ngai Te Rangi chairman Charlie Tawhiau said the iwi supported the claim.

"To me, the claim is only one part of the wreck removal strategy. Ngai Te Rangi needs to make the decisions today that have the needs of our great-great-grandchildren at heart. If the wreck is left today, they will suffer from the poisons leaching out of the wreck."

The Bay of Plenty Times asked Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson whether confidential agreements existed and, if so, what was the scope of the agreements, whether iwi had been consulted before agreement was reached and whether they will be disclosed at the hearing.

A spokesman from Mr Finlayson's office replied: "The wreck removal deed does not constrain the Crown's ability to support, oppose or remain neutral on the application to leave the wreck where it is. In order to help formulate its position, the Crown has been consulting with iwi and hapu. Cabinet has not taken any decisions on the position it will take yet."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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