Tribunal declines claims on Māui’s dolphin

The Waitangi Tribunal has found the Crown’s policy on the protection of the endangered Māui’s dolphin does not breach the Treaty of Waitangi.

In The Priority Report concerning Māui’s Dolphin, released today, the Tribunal found that, while the dolphin is a taonga to two North Island coastal hapū, the Crown had not breached its obligations under the Treaty.

The report concerns the claims of Ngāti Te Wehi and Ngāti Tahinga, two hapū based in and around Aotea Harbour on the west coast of the North Island. The claimants alleged the Crown’s 2013 threat management plan for the Māui’s dolphin did not give due regard to their interests as kaitiaki of the species.

The Tribunal found that the Māui’s dolphin was a taonga to the two hapū due to its endangered status. The claimants’ interests as kaitiaki therefore deserved the Crown’s active protection under the Treaty.

However, the Tribunal found the Crown’s threat management plan did not breach the Treaty. Based on the evidence it considered, the Tribunal was unable to conclude that the Crown’s processes lacked good faith or that they were unreasonable.

The Tribunal also found that, in addition to scientific evidence concerning the state of the Maui’s dolphin population, the Crown was entitled to take into account wider economic, social, and cultural considerations in deciding its 2013 threat management plan.

While it was obliged to take into account the dolphin’s importance as a taonga to Māori, the Crown also owed Treaty duties to Māori with fisheries interests in the dolphin habitat.

Although the Tribunal said that the prospect that the Māui’s dolphin may become extinct was of grave concern, ultimately it found that the claimants had not made out their claim to breaches of the Treaty.

Waitangi Tribunal’s Priority Report concerning Māui’s Dolphin [PDF, 903KB] (external link)

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