Pouakani Decision Creates Fertile Ground for Debate 29 Jun 2012
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Maori Party Co-leader – and MP for Te Tai Hauauru Tariana Turia – believes the Supreme Court Judgment confirming that “the riverbed adjoining the Pouakani lands is not vested in the Crown" will provoke active discussion for whanau, hapu and iwi around water rights.
Mrs Turia said “The Pouakani decision rejects the views of the High Court and Court of Appeal; and in doing so provides fresh momentum for iwi in their various river claims around the legal basis for Crown applications to ownership” says Turia.
“The Pouakani claim was taken to the High Court by kaumatua of Ngati Wairangi, Ngati Moe, Ngati Korotuohu, Ngati Ha, Ngati Hinekahu and Ngati Rakau; and has its origins in five blocks of land at Pouakani, near Mangakino, which were transferred to Crown ownership between 1887 and 1899”.
“Some 125 years on, their claim that the Crown acquisition of the river bed had occurred without their free and informed consent has finally been heard by the most powerful Court in the land”. said Mrs Turia.
“Clause 18 of the Supreme Court judgment is particularly interesting. It acknowledges the role of customary/proprietary interests based on customs guaranteed under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, regarding whether the river area in question is navigable (a transport highway)”.
“The Court concluded that the riverbed at Pouakani couldn’t be defined as navigable and in doing so threw out the presumption of Crown ownership”.
“I know that whanau, hapu and iwi will be really interested to see where this debate now goes” said Mrs Turia. “The Attorney General’s reported comments that the Supreme Court decision, as with any claim, could set a precedent for other parts of the country will no doubt lead to many iwi looking closely into the relevance of the Pouakani decision for their own situation”.
The Supreme Court decision also has a fresh relevance following the various submissions iwi such as Tuwharetoa made in the context of the debate around the Mixed Ownership Model.
"The statements by Tuwharetoa that they need to revisit the operation of energy schemes upon their lakes and rivers will inevitably revive discussions of water ownership, management and allocation rights".
(The Maori Party)
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