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Salient Māori News Items to E38 13 November 2020

Salient Māori News Items to E38 13 November 2020

Appointments and Awards

  • On Tuesday, Shane Reti was promoted to the role of Deputy Leader of the National Party. Dr Reti is also the National Party spokesperson for Health, and spokesperson for Children.
  • Last week the 2020 Research Honours Aotearoa Awards were held at Government House. Successful award recipients included:
    • Professor Rawinia Higgins – Pou Aronui Award for contribution in revitalising te reo Māori;
    • Professor David Tipene-Leach MNZM – Tahunui-a-Rangi Award for invention and creation;
    • Associate Professor Maria Bargh – Te Puāwaitanga Award for distinctive contribution to Te Ao Māori and indigenous knowledge.

Parliamentary and Related Matters

  • Last Friday the 2020 General Election and Referendums Official Result were published. After the special vote count the Labour Party gained a further 0.9% of the party votes, the Green Party gained a further 0.3%, and the Māori Party gained a further 0.2%. This result was sufficient for the Māori Party to secure one list seat.  Accordingly, Māori Party co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, will now enter Parliament.  This means when Parliament recommences there will be 25 Māori members.  This is two more Māori entering Parliament from the 2017 election – and equates to circa 21% of the total 120 seats, this is well above the proportion of Māori in the population, which is 16%.
Final Election Results
Party Party Votes % of Votes Electorate Seats List Seats Total Seats
Labour 1,443,546 50 46 19 64
National 738,275 25.6 23 10 33
Green 226,756 7.9 1 9 10
ACT 219,030 7.6 1 9 10
Māori  33,632 1.2 1 1 2
Total     72 48 120


Seabed mining dispute continues

  • Next week the Supreme Court will hear the appeal of Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTRL) regarding their application for Seabed Mining. Essentially the company wants the Supreme Court to overturn decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal that respectively quashed and then ruled against their application for the seabed mining off the Taranaki coast.

For more context, the TTRL application was successfully challenged in the High Court after the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), had ruled in favour of TTRL’s for this activity in 2017 (see footnote below on more details about this decision).[1]  It was the company’s second application, as it was first turned down by the EPA in 2014, but the company simply immediately reapplied (there is no legal limit or restrictions on reapplications).   The appellants against the seabed mining application included Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui, Te Ohu Kai Moana, Te Kaahui o Rauru, as well as environmental and fisheries groups.

Further, giving this matter more heat , the Attorney-General, David Parker, is also now supporting the appeal to the Supreme Court, to clarify matters of law in relation to te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori customary interests and the applicability of tikanga to marine and marine consent discharge applications” – which the lower Courts considered in their decision-making processes against TTRL.  A spokesperson for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, has expressed concern at this querying by the Attorney-General, suggesting the Government is seeking to narrow the Courts interpretation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  Ms Ngarewa-Packer is of course, now a member of Parliament as well (Māori Party).  So in our view this challenge to the Supreme Court has both political dimensions and wider Te Tiriti o Waitangi implications as to whether and how Te Tiriti ought to guide natural resource usage decisions or not.[2]

In terms of the actual matter at hand, TTRL wishes to mine 50 million tonnes of seabed material per year for twenty years, to extract iron ore. (So 1 billion tonnes of sand in total, and given the average weight of sand that’s about 741 million square metres of sand – so it is a truly massive operational proposal).  If allowed this would be in a 66 square kilometre area about 30 kilometres off the South Taranaki coast.  In simple terms we understand the plan is to vacuum up the sand and other material from the seabed to a ship, then use a magnet on the ship to grab the iron ore, then pump the depleted sand back on the seabed.  The remaining iron ore would then be shipped off to China for productive use – which happens to be the country where TTRL investment funds have come from.  (Meaning there is also an unvoiced economic question as to whether New Zealand’s nature resources should be sold to China in this way, and if so, at what cost.)

The public environmental debate however is that this is a new experimental industry, with unknown environmental risks.  One key concern opponents have expressed is the 45 million tonnes of material being returned to the ocean each year (think 33 million square metres worth) won’t just settle, but could just drift like massive clouds in the ocean, choking out sunlight and thus destabilising the marine sea life chain, resulting in the death of many species of plants, fish, other marine life and seabirds, etc.  TTRL do not think this will happen however, they think the sand will just return to normal, less the iron ore.  The Taranaki iwi groupings, however are not prepared to take the risk, and consider their kaitiaki duties compel them to stop this proposal.  The iwi viewpoint reflects findings of the Te Kupenga survey (see above), around Māori views of the environment and stewardship responsibilities.


[1] In 2017 the EPA decision-making panel reconsidered the matter, but their views were split, meaning the Chair, Alick Shaw, used a casting vote to greenlight the second application.  It was that process which was appealed to the High Court.  At the time we noted that Mr Shaw ought to have been required to consider advice from the EPA’s Māori Advisory Committee before reaching his decision, but that did not occur (potentially making that Committee toothless); and highlighting another deficiency in regulatory settings.

[2] There is also the question as to why the law allowed for a second application anyhow – as such an approach favours parties with the most resources and presents as badly crafted law.  I.e. a minimum stand-down period and rationale for reconsiderations ought to be within the legal framework

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