Countering the Coastal Claims Campaign is seeking to contact people who know the history of the stretch of coastline in the southern Hawke’s Bay from Whangaehu to Cape Turnagain, which is being claimed under the Marine and Coastal Area Act, (claim no. CIV-2011-485-789). If you, or anyone you know is familiar with the coastline, please email [email protected]. This is an urgent request, as statements of evidence from interested parties must be filed and served on Ms Clarkson, (on behalf of the applicants), the Attorney General, and the overlapping claimants by 16 January 2019.
The role and status of the Attorney General in the proceedings
During the first round of case management conferences for the applicants who have registered for the recognition of customary interests under the Marine and Coastal Area Act, several claimants placed on record their concern about the role and status of the Attorney General (AG) in the proceedings, and whether the AG can oppose applications in the public interest. Counsel for the AG responded with a memorandum, dated 11 September 2018, clarifying the AG’s role as an interested party to all the proceedings – see the memorandum HERE.
Perturbed by what the memorandum says, and with the realisation there may be no Government opposition at all for some claims, we have written to both the Attorney General and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, asking who in Government will be acting on behalf of the public interest regarding the applications for Customary Marine Title and Protected Customary Rights lodged in the High Court.
The office of the Attorney-General replied with the following statement: “As the matters you raised fall under the portfolio responsibilities of Hon Little, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, your correspondence was referred to their office for consideration”.
Andrew Little’s response was more forthcoming. He states that the Attorney General represents the public interest by supporting the purposes of the Act. He goes on to say that the AG will not automatically oppose all applications. However, he writes, where the AG is satisfied the applicant has not been able to meet the tests in the Act he will advise the court accordingly.
For a copy of Andrew Little’s response, please click HERE.
Register your interest in helping to oppose the claims
Given that there is no guarantee the claims will be opposed by the Government, (nor local authorities if Auckland Council is an example), it is very important that the general public become involved. To this end the Countering Coastal Claims Campaign is building up a knowledge bank of information about public use of each claimed area by gathering evidence that can be used to refute the claimant’s arguments that they have used the area exclusively and continuously since 1840. If you have historical evidence that you think will be useful in refuting any of the claims, please register your interest with the ‘Countering the Coastal Claims Campaign’. This campaign is aiming to ensure that whenever a coastal claim is being considered by the Court or the Minister, there is information available to help to counter any misrepresentations.
Claims to Auckland’s coastline
Auckland Council has registered as an interested party in the 34 claims for the region’s coastline. We have been informed by a senior advisor at the council’s democracy services unit that the council is neither opposing nor supporting the applications, see HERE. We requested clarification from the council as to what their intentions are in relation to the claims. Their reply offers no comfort – there is no mention of Auckland Council acting to defend the public interest. This unwelcome news is compounded by the confirmation that they have engaged Paul Beverley as legal counsel, saying he “… is well placed to ensure Council is able to exert positive influence on behalf of Council”. (Readers of the October and November issues of the Democracy Action newsletter will understand why the unease about Paul Beverley acting for Auckland Council).
The Council’s stance begs the questions - is Auckland Council’s obligation to act in the best interests of the people – all the people - being compromised when it comes to a case of Maori interests v. the interests of other citizens? Is it possible the Council will not defend the public interest because of the commitments it has made to Maori in statutory provisions in various documents? One example is the Auckland Plan 2050, with its stated intention to allow for more direct influence and greater exercise of authority by mana whenua over natural resources, alongside the references to partnership and co-governance with Maori, which are peppered throughout the Plan.
The following excerpts from the Auckland Plan give an indication of the policies Auckland Council has endorsed:
- “Focus area 5: Advance mana whenua rangatiratanga in leadership and decision-making and provide for customary rights”.
- “Mana whenua have a unique role to play in governance and leadership in Auckland”.
- “Political structures will evolve within Auckland as the model of co‐governance is refined and te Tiriti settlements call for new arrangements”.
What to do!
Let councillors know what you think about the Council not defending the public interest. It is clear at least some of the councillors have not been informed about how the Council’s Legal Team are dealing with the claims. Auckland members, go see your councillor, taking along a copy of the list of applications to the High Court under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act relating to the Auckland region, available HERE, pointing out the council position (as advised by James Stephens Senior Advisor, Democracy Services), that it is neither opposing nor supporting the applications. Ask if the council will be providing statements of evidence about public use of each claimed area that can be used to refute the claimant’s arguments that they have used the area exclusively and continuously since 1840. You could also give your opinion on Paul Beverley acting on your behalf, given his obvious bias towards Maori interests, as outlined HERE.
A note to those who live outside Auckland
Ask your local body for a list of the applications for the recognition of the customary rights of iwi, hapū and whānau in the common marine and coastal area, made under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011, and find out how they propose to deal with these. If they follow Auckland Council’s example, and state they will be not necessarily be opposing the claims, talk to your councillors.