Customary use rights sought for offshore Whangaehu

By Laurel Stowell

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Fishing is one of the major interests along the Whangaehu-Turakina coastline. PHOTO/ FILE
Fishing is one of the major interests along the Whangaehu-Turakina coastline. PHOTO/ FILE

The owners of Māori land at the mouth of the Whangaehu River want to ally with others to seek customary use rights for the waters offshore.

Rakautaua 9 is the block of Māori land at the mouth of the river. Its chairman, Casey Paki, held a meeting at Tini Waitara Marae on November 12, to gauge interest in an approach that would cover the coastline from the Whangaehu River to the Turakina River.

Mr Paki and others have land interests all along that coast. He recently moved to Tauranga, and returns to the area three or four times a year.

He said not many came to the meeting, and he had to begin by explaining who he was and how the 2011 Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act works.

It replaced the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act. As well as guaranteeing free access to the coast it gives Māori the opportunity to claim customary rights over seas they have been using and occupying more or less continuously since 1840.

The area they can claim stretches from high tide mark to 12 nautical miles out. They can seek those rights either from the Crown or through the High Court, and they have to register their interest before April 3 next year.

Mr Paki said an attempt to get those rights has been in the Rakautaua long-term plan for three years. It was new to some of those at Tini Waitara, but they were interested in pursuing a joint claim.

What is yet to be decided is how big an area to ask for - how far out to sea and far along long the coast. Mr Paki said it could potentially stretch as far south as Foxton.

To the north, Whanganui iwi have registered an interest that stretches to Kaitoke.

"Māori in Whanganui are putting in a submission as well, and there seems to be a bit of overlap."

Lots of other iwi had made claims, and the Whangaehu-Turakina claim could be one of the last to register.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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