A Northern Hawke's Bay iwi's 30 years of modern-day battles to protect the coastal and marine resources of its areas has unfolded in an air of disbelief in a High Court hearing now in its third week in Napier.
The hearing is based on an application by Mohaka and Raupunga-based Ngati Pahauwera for recognition of customary right under the Marine and Coastal Area Act, and is before Justice Peter Churchman and is being held in the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre. It relates to the area off the coast between Poututu Stream and the Esk River.
Initially scheduled for seven weeks, it started on February 9 and is now expected to end early in March, with just under 50 witnesses, evidence being contained largely in the Waitangi Tribunal's 1992 Mohaka River, 2004 Mohaka ki Ahuriri report, Whanganui a Orotu (Napier inner harbour) inquiry and 2014 evidence by the independent assessor in Crown negotiations for Ngāti Pāhauwera.
Lady Tureiti Moxon, who grew up at Mohaka appeared briefly on Friday, speaking to submissions she first made in the river inquiry 30 years ago, and saying she was amazed that "here we are still fighting" when there had been so much hope as she took up the issues she'd been arguing almost all her life.
In that lifetime she had, since the State-owned Enterprises Act 1986, seen her community go from a time when everyone had work and money with the core earners of forestry, the railways, the Ministry of Works and the land – not rich but where everyone had enough to get by – to unemployment and poverty, where the gathering of seafood had become a necessity of life.
She said her original submissions so long ago came at a time when the Mohaka River was under threat.
"It brought our people together basically to fight hard to keep that river under the mana of Ngati Pahauwera," she said.
"All this time later we find ourselves in a very similar position," she said, saying that the issues of the protection of the river and the coast were much the same.
"The social impact of legislation particular since the Native Lands Act in 1862 has had a devastating effect on our people," she said. "The outpouring of subsequent legislation from that time to this has been unrelenting, including the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004, which prevented iwi and hapu from taking any claim to court, was perhaps one of the most racist pieces of legislation, outlandishly so, that we've had to deal with."
Noting it was repealed seven years later, she said that showed the continued fight the iwi had to retain mana over its lands, river and other resources. "We are constantly under siege," she said.
The rights had not been taken seriously right since the times of colonisation, she said.
In all, nine parties are represented at the hearing, involving at least 22 legal counsel.
Ngati Pahauwera is represented by Roimata Smail and Erin James, and the Crown (Attorney-General) has a team of four, headed by barrister Rachel Roff assisted by Rachel Budd, Nicole Morrall and Nathan King-Tabuteau for Ngāti Pāhauwera.
Also represented are other iwi groups Ngai Tahu o Mohaka Waikare, Maungaharuru Tangiitu, and Ngati Parau, and Napier Treaty settlement entity Mana Ahuriri, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Pan Pac and the Seafood Industry.