Supreme Court denies Nelson iwi's bid for estuary

The Supreme Court has dismissed a long-running claim by a top of the South Island iwi for title of mudflats near Nelson.

The Te Huria Matenga Wakapuaka Trust has for many years sought freehold title of the coastal enclosure at Wakapuaka Estuary, Delaware Bay, near Cable Bay, 24km northeast of Nelson.

The claim sparked debate which led to introduction of the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004 after a 1998 Maori Land Court decision granted title to the trust.

The Crown took that decision to the Court of Appeal which overturned the land court's ruling. The Supreme Court, in a decision released this morning, dismissed the trust's bid to reverse that decision, saying it could not take a different view from the Court of Appeal.

The trust has said it wanted to gain title to the estuary to protect it from development while some locals fear they will need iwi permission to use the area.

However, the Supreme Court said that did not mean the trust could not pursue its claim for the mudflats through other legislation, such as the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, or the area could be claimed on the basis of customary title - taking into consideration the effects of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, the replacement foreshore and seabed legislation.

The Supreme Court judges said the case was difficult because two of the survey plans used in the production of the Native Land Court certificate of title went missing long ago.

However, more evidence could come to light in the future which could be used to progress the trust's claim.

- NZPA

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