Crown's post-Rena consultation a wreck
ELTON SMALLMAN AND FLORENCE KERR
The Crown has been described as "incompetent" by Bay of Plenty Maori after the Waitangi Tribunal found it had breached principles of the Treaty by cutting a deal with the owners of MV Rena before consulting local iwi.
The MV Rena container ship ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef (Te Tau o Taiti) on October 5, 2011, spilling more than 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, plus containers, in New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster.
Motiti Island hapu spokesman Buddy Mikaere said the "scathing report" by the tribunal proved the Crown was "incompetent."
"It's sad, in a way, because 40 years we have had in dealing with the Treaty and Treaty issues seem to count for nothing. We've all gone back to square one again. We found their actions really disheartening."
In an interim report, the tribunal found the Crown's consultation process failed to fulfil its duty to actively protect Maori and their taonga.
The breach stemmed from a financial settlement between the Crown and owners of the Rena, Daina Shipping Company, worth $27.6 million for the Crown and other public bodies, including Maritime New Zealand and the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.
The Crown had rubber-stamped three deeds of settlement with the Rena owners in October 2012 before consulting Bay of Plenty Maori in November, 2013, despite the Resource Management Act requiring that public bodies take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi when they make decisions.
The Crown agreed "in good faith" to consider making a submission in support of Daina's resource consent to leave the wreck on the reef.
Daina would pay another $10.4m for "public purposes" if the consent was approved, and the Crown had not opposed the application either directly or indirectly..
The total cleanup was estimated to cost about $47m, leaving a shortfall of around $20m based on the negotiated settlement.
Mikaere said the hapu felt misled by the Crown and out-gunned in terms of resources.
"We've been asked to deal with one of the most complex resource consent applications ever and we don't have the resourcing to get our own . . . expert witnesses."
Mikaere said since the Rena ran aground in 2011 there had been serious consequences for the hapu living on Motiti Island.
"It has meant we can't do the manaaki, the hosting on the marae, that we would normally do because we can't access the reef. There are still doubts about eating fish and seafood from the northern part of the island."
The chairman of Te Runanga o Ngaiterangi, Charlie Tawhiao, said the tribunal's finding was justice.
"I think it's something we all need to reflect on, because if there is any criticism of the Waitangi Tribunal process, it's generally aimed at Maori, when in fact we've been driven to taking action because of the continued and ongoing fumbling of the Crown."
Cabinet will meet on July 28 to decide the Government response to the resource consent application. Submissions close on August 8.
- Waikato Times