Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are in the High Court today, challenging a Crown proposal to give two significant land sites to another iwi without their permission.

Today is the first day of the 10-week legal proceedings against the Crown, held in the Auckland High Court. 

In 2018, the Crown proposed giving two sites to iwi collective Marutūahu (comprised of Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngaati Whanaunga and Te Patukirikiri iwi) as part of their Treaty settlement process.

But Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei say they are mana whenua of Central Auckland and should have been notified of the Crown’s intentions prior to the inclusion of the two sites in Marutūahu deed of settlement.

“We are the mana whenua. We hold the mana, the tribal authority of Central Auckland. We live here. We’re so local we’re going to be walking past these sites the Crown’s decided to give to other tribes from elsewhere,” deputy chair of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust Ngarimu Blair told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme. 

“We will challenge the Crown’s right to give our ancestral land away to others without our approval.”

A total of three sites in Taurarua (Judges Bay) and Waipapa (Parnell) were identified as areas of significance for Marutūahu by the Crown. The deed includes statutory acknowledgement of the Marutūāhu Iwi over two sites in Taurarua. 

A statutory acknowledgement recognises the association between an iwi and a particular area. This enhances the ability of the iwi to collectively participate in specified resource management processes.

“We’re a post-settlement iwi. The Crown gave us certain undertakings only in recent years and they’ve already walked back on them,” says Blair.

“The Crown only signed a deal with us eight years ago. They said they would respect our tikanga, our customs, our history… and then less than a couple of years after that they go and offer land to other tribes without our approval or discussing it with us. We don’t think that’s good enough.”

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have characterised their claim before the High Court as one for the recognition of various rights, rather than as a challenge to the decision made by Parliament to include the areas.

Blair says the issue has been brewing for seven years and that going to court was the iwi’s last resort, but they felt as if they had been left with no other options.