Damning Rena report: Crown failed Maori

By Sandra Conchie

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A damning report into how the Government handled the fallout of Rena's grounding has been released - revealing the Crown breached the principals of good faith and partnership under its Treaty of Waitangi obligations with Maori.

Iwi representative Buddy Mikaere has been a key figure in taking the Crown to task through the Waitangi Tribunal after the Government failed to consult with Maori regarding Rena's future.
Iwi representative Buddy Mikaere has been a key figure in taking the Crown to task through the Waitangi Tribunal after the Government failed to consult with Maori regarding Rena's future.

The Waitangi Tribunal released its interim findings and recommendations today following an urgent inquiry which concluded on July 2 into the Crown's conduct and actions following Rena's grounding, and after it signed three deeds with Rena's owners.

Three Motiti Island groups - Ngai te Hapu, Motiti Rohe Moana Trust and Maatatahua District Maori Council who gave evidence at the inquiry argued the Crown's failure to consult its Treaty partners had resulted in a "clear" breach of its Treaty obligations.

Crown's failure to consult its Treaty partners had resulted in a "clear" breach of its Treaty obligations.
Waitangi Tribunal

The claimants are seeking complete removal of the wreck and reinstatement of the environment.

They further argued one of the deed agreements had locked the Crown into supporting the resource consent.

On October 4, 2012, the Crown and Rena's owner, Daina Shipping Company, signed a "wreck removal" deed agreement under which the Government would be paid $10.4 million if a resource consent to leave the remainder of the wreck on the reef was granted.

Last month, Rena's owners applied for a resource consent to do so.

Local Maori from Motiti Island want Rena gone. Photo/John Borren.
Local Maori from Motiti Island want Rena gone. Photo/John Borren.

The Tribunal interim report focuses on the Crown's conduct in entering into three deeds of settlement with the owners, in particular the 'wreck removal' deed.

In addition to the wreck removal deeds, the Crown signed a 'Claims' deed which settles the Crown's claims against the owners for $27.6 million.

Through an Indemnity Deed the Crown agreed to indemnify Rena's owners against 'certain claims by New Zealand public and local government claimants' to a maximum of $38 million.

The Tribunal said it was very clear that leaving the wreck on the reef would harm Motiti Maori.

The Crown's conduct to date, in the process which would determine whether the wreck was left on the reef, was in breach of Treaty principles.

The Tribunal's other interim findings are:

- The Crown's consultation with Motiti Maori before it signed three settlement deeds with Rena's owners had been neither "robust nor meaningful".
- Nor had it adequately equipped Maori to participate usefully or with informed insight in the resource consent process.
- The Crown consultation process breached the Treaty principles of good faith and partnership.
- The Crown failed in its duty to actively protect Maori in the use of their lands and water,
especially their taonga Otaiti Reef (Astrolabe) which they consider themselves to be guardians of.

Tribunal recommendations include:

- The Crown consider how it can actively assist Maori to make their own submission to the resource consent beyond legal aid funded assistance.
- The Crown immediately ensure all of its expert reports be made available to Maori.
- The Tribunal suggests that the Local Government Minister makes her own submission on the consent application in her capacity as the territorial authority of Motiti.

When the Crown considers whether to make a submission on the resource consent, it should take into account the following:

- The adverse effects of Rena's rapidly degrading form on the reef
- The potential for continued discharge as the structure breaks down
and potential release further contaminants
- The significant effects on Maori given limited use of their taonga
- The grant of the resource consent would impose adverse affects on the environment, including the Motiti community
- That the removal or mitigation of adverse affects may be different depending on which parts of the wreck and debris were under consideration for retention.

If the Crown decides to make a submission, it should:

(a) Submit to the consent decision-maker to accept Otaiti Reef is a taonga, and its protection is of national importance
(b) Make sure it is "very visibly" protects Motiti Maori interests
(c) Ensure it seeks monitoring and mitigation conditions be imposed to reduce the effects to a sustainable level as far as possible.

What do you think about the report? Have your say by commenting below.

Read the complete report at the Waitangi Tribunal website here.


View our photo gallery of images capturing the Rena journey since it grounded in October 2011 below. Or for mobile users, click here.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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