Ngātiwai Trust Board has come out against the Significant Natural Areas policy being rolled out across Northland, saying the plan should not be used on Māori land as it would reduce their ability to use the land.
Te Poari o Ngātiwai (Ngātiwai Trust Board) opposes the implementation of Significant Natural Areas (SNA) on whenua Māori.
This comes as awareness of the issue and impact on Māori grows after the Northern Advocate first published stories on SNAs last month.
The policy has been labelled a modern-day land grab, with many landowners concerned about the impacts the policy will on their ability to develop their land.
It's a national policy, but the Far North District Council (FNDC) was the first cab off the ranks and recently announced it had deemed 282,696ha of land, or around 42 per cent of the land in the district, to be classifiable as a SNA. From the land that was identified, 48 per cent or 135,694ha was whenua Māori. The heated response from landowners forced FNDC to extend the deadline for submissions until June 11.
"We agree in principle with the intention of the policy to protect our indigenous biodiversity on general title lands, but Māori land should be exempt," Aperahama Edwards, chairman of Te Poari o Ngātiwai, said.
SNAs sit within the Draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) which the Ministry of the Environment consulted on in March 2020. While the NPSIB has not been adopted at a national level, the Northland Regional Council (NRC) included SNAs in its Regional Policy Statement which requires local councils to implement.
Wildlands Consultants was engaged by NRC to complete a mapping project which mapped indigenous biodiversity across the Northland region.
"We have a concern that as hapū, iwi we were not advised by council that they intended to contract Wildlands to implement this project across our tribal estates. Who designed the project and who owns the data collected? That's our whenua data," Hūhana Lyndon, Te Raukura (CEO) mō Te Poari o Ngātiwai, said.
Despite the NPSIB not being finalised, NRC has chosen to adopt SNAs into its Regional Policy Statement - councils in Northland are now required to implement SNAs.
Ngātiwai Trust Board has concerns for the northern sections of its rohe, with impacted whenua Māori landowners worried about the implications SNAs will have on their ability to utilise their lands in the future.
"We do not support SNAs being applied to whenua Māori. As kaitiaki we are capable of protecting our indigenous biodiversity and affirm our rights guaranteed through He Whakaputanga me Te Tiriti o Waitangi. However, we have seen widespread clearing of lands in our rohe; general title lands should be the focus of this policy," Lyndon said.
Several public meetings have been organised opposing the SNA policy.
Farmers and other landowners have organised an SNA meeting at the United Kawakawa Rugby Clubrooms from 6pm on Wednesday. Another meeting has been organised for Kaeo Memorial Hall from 6pm on Thursday.