Northern Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Pahauwera is expected to be the first in New Zealand to be granted coastal Customary Marine Title, despite the iwi board's disappointment with a Crown offer that excluded the central focus of the Mohaka River mouth.
But in Hawke's Bay yesterday, Minister of Treaty Settlements Chris Finlayson QC stressed no one loses any rights, saying if people want to launch their boat where they always have done nothing changes - as is the situation with 12,500 cases of "bluewater" rights, where landowners have had long term rights to the water's edge.
Mr Finlayson said there remained a sector that wanted people to believe otherwise but the Marine and Coastal Area Act, under which the iwi application was lodged, restored peoples' right to whatever legal action they needed to protect their interest in property, and to argue it in court if need be.
"You don't do away with anyone's right to assert their property rights," he said.
Iwi chairman Toro Waaka expects unsatisfied parts of the application will be argued in the High Court, to which the iwi has already applied.
Mr Finlayson expects that while many applications around the country might "not see the light of day," there will be others that follow a similar path, possibly including some of the other 12-13 applications affecting Hawke's Bay coastline.
Applications under the Act closed in April and Mr Finlayson said: "We've now got a whole lot of cases. In my view, there will be a couple of big ones."
The Ngati Pahauwera trust board has recommended members accept the Crown offer. Although lodged in 2014, it effectively pre-dates the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act, which sparked huge opposition, formation of the Maori Party, and the beginning of the end for the Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark.
It was about to be lodged in 2008 under the new act, when the Crown advised holding-off until the repealing of the Foreshore and Seabed Act. The was replaced under National and Maori parties leadership by the new legislation, which Mr Finlayson noted was supported by all in Parliament in 2011.
The iwi application sought title over the area from between the mouths of the Poututu Stream in the north (north of the Waihua River) to Ponui Stream in the south (just north of the Waikare River), including the Mohaka River mouth and extending 12 nautical miles out to sea.
But the Crown offer, made through Mr Finlayson, excludes the Mohaka mouth and covers only the beach area ("wet sands") in the high-to-low tide marks of the shorter distance from Waihua River to Ponui Stream.
From its treaty settlement, the iwi does have some authority over the Mohaka, particularly in relation to the unique hangi stones of the area, which are seen as a Ngati Pahauwera taonga.
Customary marine title recognises a person's relationship to the marine and coastal area. This can't be sold or used to restrict public access (except in the case of protecting wahi tapu subject to a separate application).
It gives standing to opposition, and support, in resource consent applications, ownership of minerals other than petroleum, gold silver and uranium, interim ownership of taonga discovered in the area, and allows iwi the ability to prepare a planning documentary setting out its objectives and policies for management and resources of the area.
Two ratification hui for members were held last week at Te Hauke and Mohaka and the third-and-last will be on Sunday at the headquarters of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga in Hastings, off Orchard Rd near the Omahu Rd-HB Expressway. Results are expected to be announced on August 7.
Project manager Bonny Hatami said the iwi has 6-7000 members. The ratification process is not as extensive as that required in the treaty settlement process, and some members living outside the rohe have supplied letters of support. The biggest attendance is expected at the Hastings hui, partly because it doubles as a hui-a-iwi, with general business.