In a landmark ruling, the High Court has granted a Bay of Plenty iwi customary rights to several marine areas which could set a precedent for iwi around the country.
The iwi, Te Whakatōhea, has battled for more than 30 years to get their claim to the foreshore recognised.
The ruling involves several hapū, in an area between Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki and has effectively granted a new form of property right, known as customary marine title.
In 2005, Labour’s attempt to settle the foreshore issue sparked huge protests. National then changed the law, and this ruling is the first major test of it since.
Customary practices like whitebaiting, gathering medicinal plants, and launching waka have all been protected by the court.
Maui Hudson, Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board says the ruling had probably “dropped a kind of bomb in some places.
Within the court document was a key ruling, Te Whakatōhea had to show they’d had uninterrupted use of the area since 1840.
Despite having their land confiscated more than a century ago, they didn’t lose their claim.
“I think it's going to be interesting to see what kind of precedent that sets for hearings that take place in other rohe,” says Hudson.
The seafood industry was worried its activities might be restricted, but Hudson says otherwise.
“This isn't something that stops activities from taking place; it's something that allows it to take place in terms of partnership.”
Meanwhile, the Government says it has been waiting for the Court’s ruling. Andrew Little, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister says it’s a big decision and he needs time to “consider and digest it” before giving a comment in detail.