Te Runanga o Te Rarawa has resolved to oppose deep sea oil drilling within its iwi area of interest in the Far North.
Chairman Haami Piripi said this decision reaffirmed the runanga's policy of supporting the views of its hapu on deep sea mining, including those voiced at the controversial community meeting convened by the Mana Party at Ahipara's Korou Kore Marae.
The decision came in the wake of the government announcing that it was awarding offshore exploration permits to oil companies including Norwegian company Statoil, which was granted a permit to undertake exploration work in the Reinga Northland area. The Runanga would continue to engage with Statoil to facilitate effective monitoring of its exploration activities, in defence of the environment and hapu kaitiaki rights and responsibilities.
Mr Piripi said the runanga had also noted the High Court decision of December 20, where the Environmental Protection Authority had only narrowly succeeded in defeating Greenpeace's legal challenge against its decision to allow Anadarko to drill exploration wells off the Taranaki coast.
"While it won on a legal technicality, the strong criticism by Justice Mackenzie was that the EPA decision lacked 'any assessment of the merits of the content of (Anadarko's) impact assessment,' acting merely as an 'administrative and mechanical' agency," he added.
"For an Environmental Protection Agency that ought to have more robust analysis standards regarding such matters, this is naturally of real concern to us."
While the runanga had already made cautionary submissions on the exploration permits, it had also produced on behalf of Tai Tokerau iwi an in-depth analysis of the issues around mineral extraction. Mr Piripi said the discussion paper, which he presented to the National Forum of Iwi Chairs in November, provided a tool for iwi to critically assess the benefits and risks associated with their own territories based on their own unique circumstances, adding to a growing capability of iwi and hapu to respond to decisions being made by the government.
"This is a case of 'hapai o ki muri,' where iwi authorities put our weight in behind kaitiaki who have ancient cultural responsibilities to nurture the environment," he said.
"Iwi infrastructural capacity provides a regional platform for political and economic influence. Therefore it is vital that these two institutions of iwi authorities and kaitiaki work in a complimentary way to help make informed strategic decisions and take action in the best interests of Te Rarawa."
The single most important issue, however, was deep sea oil drilling off the North's coast, and the runanga endorsed the approach being taken by manawhenua and the community in general.
"Mining is an extreme activity, but there are other equally important issues that we face. The iwi/hapu collaboration will be the factor that enables solutions for the future," he added.
"Te Rarawa has a long and noble history of innovation and foresight. Our forebears, like Panakareao and Te Ripi Puhipi, were exponents of this approach, which transitioned our iwi into the new millennium."