Taranaki Maori make customary rights claim to marine and coastal areas
Taranaki Maori are among those claiming customary rights to parts of the country's coastline.
More than 150 claims have been made under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act by iwi, hapu and whanau across New Zealand.
South Taranaki iwi Ngaruahine was the first in the region to lodge its application in the High Court last year, but others have since followed suit before last month's national deadline.
This includes Taranaki's largest iwi Te Atiawa, who has applied to have its customary rights recognised between Herekawe Stream in the south and Te Rau o Te Huia in the north, and in a seaward direction from mean high-water springs to 12 nautical miles.
Customary rights being sought include the ability to launch and land waka, collect and use stones, driftwood and seaweed and impose rahui.
Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa chairwoman Liana Poutu said the potential of having its rights legally protected was significant.
"One of the key things for us is that we haven't had our rights recognised," Poutu said.
"It's hugely important for our people."
She said until now there had been no mechanism in place to legally recognise Maori customary rights.
However, like other groups around the country, Te Atiawa will have to wait until the a determination is made by the court about the merit of its claim.
"The biggest hurdle for us is for the court to accept there is sufficient evidence," Poutu said.
Another waiting to hear back is Hori Manuirirangi, who made an application on behalf of South Taranaki hapu Ngati Tu.
The group is seeking protection for customary rights connected to recreational use of waterways and the collection of kaimoana.
He said the hapu wanted to have an increased voice regarding activity in the marine and coastal areas within its rohe. Manuirirangi said the health of the seafood stocks was a major concern for him.
"We want to have more say and more control," he said.
Earlier this month iwi leader Maanu Paul made a claim for the customary rights of New Zealand's foreshore and sea beds on behalf of all Maori.
If customary rights are recognised, it will give iwi, hapu and whanau a greater say in terms of the activity which takes place along its coastline or in marine areas located within their rohe.
It also provides tangata whenua with a veto right in terms of certain resource consent applications or conservation activities which are applied for within their tribal boundaries.
While it sought to protect iwi rights within their area, the application would have no impact on the wider public, who would not be excluded from sites or prevented from carrying on with recreational pursuits.
The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act replaced the controversial and now repealed 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act, which ended the right of Maori to seek customary title in the courts.
More than 20,000 people marched in opposition to the legislation at the time.