3 Dec 2014

Tribunal: Maori failed over Rena

5:49 pm on 3 December 2014

The Waitangi Tribunal says Motiti Island Maori have been "prejudicially affected" by deals the New Zealand Government signed with the owner of the wrecked ship Rena.

The grounding on Astrolabe Reef created one of New Zealand's worst maritime and environmental disasters.

The grounding of the Rena on Astrolabe Reef created one of New Zealand's worst maritime disasters. Photo: RENA PROJECT

The container ship grounded on Otaiti Reef, also known as Astrolabe Reef, off the coast of Tauranga in October 2011 and a resource consent application had been lodged to leave most of the wreckage where it is.

The tribunal was looking into the conduct of the Crown when it signed a $27.6 million wreck removal deed with the Rena's owner Daina Shipping Company to settle the claims of the Crown and public bodies in 2012.

The Crown would have been paid another $10.4 million if the company was granted a resource consent to leave the wreck on the reef. Under this deed, the Crown also agreed to consider making an application in support of the consent application.

The Crown has partially supported Daina Shipping Company's application, but wanted strict monitoring conditions put in place.

During an urgent hearing into the issue, the Motiti Rohemoana Trust, Ngai Te Hapu and the Mataatua District Maori Council told the tribunal's panel that they had been left out of any decision-making.

An interim report released by the tribunal on the Rena in July this year found that the Crown failed to fully consult Motiti Island Maori over the application to leave the ship on the reef. It said consultation over deeds which the Crown signed with Daina Shipping Company was neither robust, nor meaningful.

The final report released today supported that view and added that "the Crown was not adequately informed of the nature and extent of Maori interests in the reef, nor of how those interests might be affected by a successful resource consent application to leave the wreck on the reef" when it entered into the deed.

The tribunal panel led by Judge Sarah Reeves said the Crown should have asked what their relationship with Otaiti Reef was and what their views were on an application to leave the wreck there.

The report said the Crown's conduct in relation to the deed it signed had damaged its relationship with Maori.

"By failing to consult prior to entering the deeds, the Crown denied Maori the opportunity to inform its decision-making on an agreement that had the potential to significantly affect their interests, and it did so without itself being adequately informed about those interests.

"The Crown then exacerbated this failure by not releasing relevant parts of the deed to Maori as soon as possible and by conducting an inadequate consultation process as it decided whether to make a submission on the owners' resource consent application. The Crown's conduct in this regard has diminished the Treaty partnership to the detriment of Maori and so has prejudicially affected the claimants."

The tribunal believed the Crown had breached the Treaty principles of partnership and mutual benefit. It recommended that the Crown actively participate in the resource consent process and protect Maori interests while doing this.

It also told the Crown to consider how it could actively assist Maori to participate in the resource consent process over and above some legal that is available.

The resource consent application would be heard by independent commissioners appointed by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and was expected to take place in Tauranga in the first half of 2015.

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