Urgent probe into Rena plans

The Waitangi Tribunal is to hold an urgent hearing into allegations that the Crown’s conduct over what to do with the wreck of cargo ship Rena off the Tauranga coast is in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The hearing will be held in Tauranga on Monday and Tuesday.

The claims are brought by the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, the Mataatua District Maori Council and Ngai Te Hapu Incorporated Society, with a number of Maori trusts and hapu and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council as interested parties.

The allegations involve a deal in which the owners agreed to pay $10.4 million to the Crown if they could obtain a resource consent to leave part of the wreck on the reef.

Bay of Plenty iwi said the Crown had not consulted with Maori on that deal, when Treaty principles required it should.

The reef was considered an "important taonga" of Ngai Te Hapu, which the Crown had an obligation to protect under the Treaty, the Ngai Te Hapu Incorporated Society has argued.

Earlier this month, the regional council accepted a resource consent application to leave parts of the wreck of the Rena and associated debris on Astrolabe Reef, where the ship grounded in October 2011.

More than 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil leaked into the sea after the ship hit the reef.

The tribunal inquiry will be headed by Judge Sarah Reeves, with Professor Sir Tamati Reedy, Sir Doug Kidd and Ronald Crosby on the inquiry panel.