Interim Report on the MV Rena and Motiti Island Claims Released
In an interim report released today, the Waitangi Tribunal has found that the Crown’s conduct in response to the grounding of the MV Rena on Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Tribunal has released its interim report to inform the pending all-of-government response to the resource consent application, lodged on behalf of the MV Rena owners, which seeks to leave some or all of the wreck on the reef. The Tribunal understands that Cabinet meets on 28 July to decide the Government’s response to the resource consent application, submissions on which close on 8 August.
Because of that imminent decision, the report focuses on the Crown’s consultation with Māori after the Crown signed three deeds with the Rena’s owners. These deeds settle the Crown’s claims against the owners for $27.6 million. The deeds further oblige the Crown to consider, in good faith, supporting an application by the owners for resource consent to leave the wreck on the reef. If the Crown does support the application, and the application succeeds, the Crown stands to gain an additional windfall of $10.4 million for ‘public purposes’.
The Tribunal has determined that Otaiti Reef is a taonga to the claimants, who are Māori living on or affiliating to Motiti Island. Motiti Māori are an isolated island community in an especially vulnerable position. The Tribunal considered that they would bear the brunt of what seem likely to be significant adverse cultural and environmental effects if the wreck is allowed to remain on the reef.
Between November 2013 and June 2014, the Crown conducted a consultation process seeking Māori views on the owners’ resource consent application. The Tribunal considered that the Crown’s consultation with Māori was neither robust nor meaningful. The consultation process neither adequately informed the Crown of Māori views nor adequately equipped Māori to participate usefully or with informed insight in the resource consent process.
In its report, the Tribunal has therefore found that the Crown’s consultation process failed to fulfil its duty to actively protect Māori and their taonga. The Crown accordingly breached the Treaty principles of good faith and partnership. The Tribunal has made recommendations and suggestions designed to remedy the prejudice that this is likely to cause the claimants.
The Tribunal will release a full report on the Crown’s conduct at a later date, including its conduct in entering into the deeds with the Rena’s owners.
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