Ngati Whatua has lodged a claim for customary title and protected rights over the Auckland foreshore from North Head to Kohimarama and for the Manukau harbour from Blockhouse Bay to Mangere inlet.

The claim is one was of several hundred claims that were made before the deadline on April 3 under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

But Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson told the Herald most of the claims were likely to "fade away."

The Auckland claim is made in the name of Ngarimu Blair, the deputy chairman of Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust Board, who told the Herald it was not a claim for ownership.

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"We want our customary right, our historic and ongoing connection to those areas of the sea and the harbours recognised in a formal way," he said.

"It never has been really."

Asked if Ngati Whatua wanted great control he said : "We want a more consistent, clearer input into decisions that are taken, that are made around those areas."

He cited attempts at reclamation by the Ports of Auckland into the Waitemata "where we have to line up with every other member of the public and stakeholder."

"We have a view that we still have a customary right and customary relationship with that area, that we should be treated in a more consistent and respectful manner by authorities making those decisions."

John Tamihere has also made a claim on behalf of Ngati Porou ki Hauraki for rights and title of two parts of Coromandel Peninsula.

The law, which replaced Labour's Foreshore and Seabed Act, allows iwi and hapu to make claims in either the High Court or directly to the Government.

Ngarimu Blair, deputy chairman of Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust Board. Photo/ Dean Purcell
Ngarimu Blair, deputy chairman of Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust Board. Photo/ Dean Purcell

Ngati Whatua, based at Bastion Pt above Okahu Bay, has elected to make a claim directly to the Government.


With perhaps still some more to be counted, there have been 381 claims counted so far for direct negotiations with the Government and 170 to go through the High Court.

The Maori Council has also made a claim for the entire foreshore and coastal waters of the country.
Finlayson said the test was high. An iwi or hapu had to prove continuous occupation since 1840 without substantial interruption.

"If the Maori Council can prove that, then I'm a giraffe."

He said under the current law, only one case had been through the court, in relation to Te Tii islands south of Invercargill.

He had also been in discussions with Ngati Pahuwera. Retired High Court Judge John Priestly had written a report for him on that claim, some of which he accepted and some of which he rejected.

"I understand they may be taking me to court."

Asked if he had a timeframe in mind by which he wanted marine and coastal area claims dealt with, he said the emphasis was on the just, speedy and expeditious determination of proceedings "with emphasis on just."

"We are realistic and pragmatic about it being very hard to prove at Okahu Bay - 40,000 people drive through our bay - 20,000 in the morning and 20,000 at night."

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"Of course I would like them resolved in the not too distant future, but what I think is going to happen is we will get a couple of decisions out of the courts over the next couple of years and then most of these applications will either fade away or we will conclude agreements."

There were three levels of relief for customary interest: participation in conservation processes in the common marine and coastal area; protected customary rights; and the highest level, customary marine title.

If a claim is successful, public access must be maintained.

Ngarimu Blair said the bar in the law had been set very high.

"But we felt it was important to at least make the point that these areas were part of our domain at least up until the 1860s and obviously being in an urban area, we have become separated through the loss of land and mostly, not through our own fault but through workings of the Crown, cant demonstrate uninterrupted exclusive occupation and use.

"We are realistic and pragmatic about it being very hard to prove at Okahu Bay - 40,000 people drive through our bay - 20,000 in the morning and 20,000 at night.

"But these were the cards that were dealt. We will put our case to the minister and we will see what happens."