News from home / Politics
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21 Sep 2016

The journey to ratify the Deed to Amend the Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Foreshore and Seabed Deed of Agreement with the Crown will soon begin. At stake is the mana motuhake of our coastal hapu and a golden opportunity to build on and strengthen hapu coastal management.

Ngati Porou is on the verge of taking the next important step in confirming, through various legal tests, our ownership of a significant proportion of our rohe moana or coastal homelands. While many tribes in New Zealand have lost control of their traditional rohe, our hapu have maintained their mana over the lion’s share of our territory from Potikirua in the north to Te Toka-a-Taiau in the south. They can also claim an unbroken occupation over our coastal lands and adjacent foreshore and seabed areas.

According to lawyer and negotiator of Ngati Porou’s treaty settlement, Matanuku Mahuika, hapu still control around 90% of our coastal lands. He attributes this fact to the isolation and rugged coastline of the East Coast which has kept it relatively untouched by the outside world. For hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the Pakeha, our hapu lived off their coastal resources and prospered.

Self-sufficient and harmonious, they had no need to travel far from their lands, since the resources around them were so abundant, and trade with other tribal groups was well established.“We were for a large part a coastal people. We fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands of our rohe, and harvested food from the surrounding bush,” says Matanuku.

The hapu were also the lore makers over their whenua takutai (coastal lands and seas), using a variety of tikanga to ensure that local marine resources were harvested and utilised in a sustainable way. And they were fiercely independent – a psyche best exemplified by Te Kani-a-Takirau (circa 1854). When offered the Maori Kingship, the great Ariki declined, famously stating: “My kingship comes from my long line of ancestors. My mountain Hikurangi is not one that moves, but one that remains steadfast.”

150 years later, it was Matanuku’s father, the late Dr Apirana Tuahae Kaukapakapa Mahuika, who echoed similar sentiments to describe the affinity and mana motuhake (absolute authority) that hapu enjoy over their coastal lands and seas, stating: “Through all our history regarding the foreshore and seabed, we as hapu of Ngati Porou established our mana. Our mana is inherited from birth. It was not the Treaty that gave it to us, our mana was here long before the Treaty.”

In 2003 Ngati Porou began nego­tiations with the Crown over our rohe moana. These negotiations, led by ‘Papa Api’ and Matanuku, culminated with the signing of the Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Foreshore and Seabed Deed of Agreement in 2008. Ratified and signed by 48 hapu, the Agreement provides for the recognition of the mana of the hapu of Ngati Porou and introduces a protective legal framework for the rights of the hapu and the sustainable manage­ment of our natural and physical coastal resources. Even though negotiations began in 2003, they were delayed due to the review and eventual repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004 by the Maori Party and the National Party.

“We have had to amend the original text of our deed to reflect the improve­ments available under the Marine and Coastal Areas (Takutai Moana) Act which replaced the original fore­shore and seabed legislation in 2011,” Matanuku points out. “The amended Agreement will now need to undergo a ratification process to provide hapu with the opportunity to consider how our position has been improved since the repeal of the 2004 Act.”

A series of rohenga tipuna hui will be held during the months of October to November. The focus of these hui will be to determine whether hapu representa­tives wish to continue to support the pro­visions within the amended Agreement. Hapu expect the Agreement will help to preserve inherited customary titles and access rights to the seabed out to the 12 nautical mile limit of New Zealand’s territorial sea. It will also enable hapu Fisheries Management Committees to develop customary fishing regulations and to manage customary fisheries.

“Other provisions provide for the protection of wahi tapu and for hapu to police these restrictions or prohibi­tions. It will become a legal offence, for instance, to breach a Wahi Tapu protec­tion mechanism which will give hapu the right to restrict or prohibit access to their sacred sites. People who breach these restrictions could face fines of up to NZ$5,000.”

Chair of the Ngati Porou Foreshore and Seabed Committee, Rei Kohere, describes the Agreement as “an historic milestone for Ngati Porou.”

“It gives hapu more power to deter­mine permission rights to approve or withhold approval for activities that have an adverse impact on their coastal resources and ecosystems,” says Rei. “It will therefore enable our hapu to exercise their mana as kaitieki over our coastline while ensuring our whanau can still gather kaimoana and enjoy our cus­tomary rights and access to our kapata kai,” says Rei.

The Ngati Porou Foreshore and Sea­bed Committee, which Rei leads, has played an instrumental role in ensuring that the rights of hapu are better pro­tected. The committee has been busy lately reviewing the finer points of the Agreement as well as collating tradi­tional knowledge around hapu coastal resource management practices.

“Our focus going forward must be to secure legal recognition and protec­tion for those traditional customs and the tikanga that have guided our hapu, including food gathering practices, and coastal occupation for centuries,” says Rei. “It’s exciting because it provides an opportunity for us to provide legal recog­nition and protection for a coastal management regime based on the tikanga of the hapu”.

Under the amended deed the Crown will provide funding to implement the new regime and to support local hapu Fisheries Management Committees, adds Matanuku who is keen to ensure that proper mechanisms are put in place by hapu. “The hapu must have their say on how this implementation money should be put to use. “It’s also important that our hapu members get involved in this kaupapa now so that they can influence the shape of how our hapu driven coastal manage­ment regime will operate in each area,” says Matanuku.

The Ngati Porou Foreshore and Sea­bed Committee will release an informa­tion booklet by October to help tribal members navigate the provisions within the Agreement.