More recognition for West Coast tangata whenua

Mahitahi (Bruce Bay) on the West Coast. Photo: Getty Images
Mahitahi (Bruce Bay) on the West Coast. Photo: Getty Images
The rights and needs of tangata whenua on the West Coast are set to gain formal and much fuller recognition in the region's new district plan.

Councils and iwi are working on a single planning document - Te Tai o Poutini (One Plan) - to combine and update the district plans for Buller, Grey and Westland councils.

Planners say the provisions for Maori in the existing plans are 'very brief' by today's standards.

The Westland and Grey District Plans have tangata whenua chapters and the Buller plan has some provisions in its introduction, but most methods to address Maori concerns are non-regulatory.

Only a very small number of culturally significant sites are identified and these are treated in the same way as European heritage sites, the planners noted.

They are proposing a much larger Poutini Ngai Tahu chapter in the new plan, similar to one drafted by the Porirua District Council.

"It gives a good weight and emphasis to matters of importance to manawhenua and the relationship with the councils," the planners say.

The chapter would set out issues, objectives and policies for the iwi. Protection for significant Maori sites would also be beefed up in a big new chapter.

"The three current district plans all group Maori sites with heritage, and this is now required to be separate. In addition, the current plans do not identify, or have any provisions for wahi tapu and wahi taonga."

The current sites identified are all archaeological sites; Westland has none listed and Buller and Grey have about 70 sites each.

How to develop those provisions in the plan is a key matter for the councils to work through, the planners say.

Pre-1900 Maori archaeological sites significant to Maori require Heritage NZ approval for any modification, but while some sites of significance to Maori would appear on Pouhere Taonga (New Zealand Heritage) list, many would not.

"There are many wahi tapu, wahi taonga and other sites significant to Poutini Ngai Tahu that are not currently recorded on any council system. TTPP represents an opportunity to address that," the planners say.

Work is now under way underway to identify sites with Poutini Ngai Tahu and decide which should be publicly listed.

The hapu would be comfortable with some sites appearing on a public planning map, but would want more protection for more sensitive sites, the planners say.

It is proposed to identify a 200m radius area in the general location of such sites.

If the hapu approved, certain activities would be 'permitted' but otherwise resource consent would be needed .

The planners are also recommending a Maori special purpose zone, for all Native Reserves except for Mawhera Incorporation leased land in the Greymouth urban area.

It includes Mawhera Incorporation's rural land; the lower Arahura River, Arahura Marae; most of the old pa, and further south, land managed by Te Tumu Paeroa at Makaawhio River.

Ngati Mahaki ki Makaawhio want to incorporate that land and take over its management, the planners note.

"It is the main developable Maori title land they have and very important for maintaining ahi kaa."

Also in the zone will be Maori land at Arawhata and Mahitahi (Bruce Bay) including wetlands at Lake Kini and Te Tauraka Waka a Maui Marae at Mahitahi.

The Mawhera Incorporation land outside the Greymouth urban area includes three blocks - Mawhera Native Reserve, Nga Moana e Rua Native Reserve and Cobden Native Reserve. Most of this land is not leased and is zoned rural.

Much of the land involved in the proposed Maori Purposes Zone has never been alienated from the hapu, or was handed back in Treaty settlement.

Exercise of their tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty; authority) by the hapu is a key goal and there are three options to achieve that, planners advise the one plan committee.

The first option is an Iwi Management Plan under the Resource Management Act, which would allow certain activities under tikanga.

Another RMA option is co-management by the iwi and councils, and the third possibility was a transfer of power to the iwi. That would require each district council to transfer its RMA functions for the land to the relevant hapu entity.

While the use of joint management or transfer of power to iwi would be new to the West Coast such provisions are becoming more common in other regions, the planners say.

The Taupo District Council and Ngati Tuwharetoa have jointly managed 60% of the land in the Taupo district since 2009, and similar arrangements are in place in Waikato and Gisborne.

Kaumatua housing will be a permitted activity in the Maori special purpose zone and will also be provided for in the general residential zone.

Any provisions made for tangata whenua in the new plan must also conform to the Mana Whakahono a Rohe agreement, which is due to be signed next week between Poutini Ngai Tahu and the West Coast Regional Council.

The agreement, provided for in the RMA, commits the council and Poutini Ngai Tahu to working together as partners.

The planners are now seeking feedback from the one plan committee on their proposals for the tangata whenua section of the document.

By Lois Williams
Local democracy reporter

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