Tribes seek urgent meeting with Solicitor-General to discuss joint action but Crown invited to help clarify law.

Ngati Whatua and Waikato-Tainui have decided to go to court to challenge the Government's interpretation of "right of first refusal" in light of Budget moves to free up surplus land in Auckland for private housing developments.

But in a bid to avoid souring their relationship with the Government, the tribes are inviting the Crown to join them in seeking clarification of the law.

The tribes have asked the law firm Russell McVeagh to seek an urgent meeting with the Solicitor-General Mike Heron to discuss the possibility of a joint approach to the courts.

The announcement of the joint action follows a meeting yesterday between 13 iwi with interests in and around Auckland and Housing Minister Nick Smith and Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.

Advertisement

Dr Smith said after the meeting with iwi it had been very constructive and there had been no talk of legal action.

He said there was a possibility of the Government forming partnerships with the collective and individual iwi to develop housing in parallel with the process announced in the Budget involving private developers.

Some Treaty of Waitangi settlements - which are passed into law - give individual iwi the right of first refusal when the Government wants to dispose of land in its area, or rohe, and some don't.

But the Government does not believe it has to give any iwi the right of first refusal in relation to the land in question in Auckland because a clause in its agreement with the collective allows the Housing Minister to dispose of land if in the minister's opinion "the disposal is to achieve or assist in achieving the Crown's social objectives in relation to housing or services related to housing".

The tribes are inviting the Crown to join them in seeking clarification of the law. Bastion Point in Orakei. Photo / Dean Purcell.
The tribes are inviting the Crown to join them in seeking clarification of the law. Bastion Point in Orakei. Photo / Dean Purcell.

A statement issued today in the name of Ngarimu Blair for Ngati Whatua and Tukoroirangi Morgan for Waikato-Tainui said they were 100 per cent behind the Government's goal to ensure more safe, warm, attractive and affordable homes are built in the Auckland region "as soon as possible".

But an issue had arisen over the right of first refusal when land was to be used for private housing developments.

They said they had learned from differences of opinion over the interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi that it was "much better to resolve differences of opinion early as we look forward through the 21st and 22nd centuries".

The applicants will be Ngati Whatua and Waikato-Tainui.

Ngati Whatua in this case comprises the Ngati Whatua Ropu entity - a grouping of Ngati Whatua Orakei, Ngati Whatua o Kaipara and Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua.