Three Maori groups are claiming customary title to Motiti Island under the Marine and Coastal Bill.
All three claims to the 10kmsq island are being made by the Te Patuwai hapu and are part of four total claims to beaches in the Western Bay of Plenty.
Nga Potiki Tahuwhaka Tiki Marae is also claiming customary rights to a 15km stretch of beach on the Papamoa coast from Omanu to Waiarakei.
TV3 revealed earlier this week that Motiti claims are among 21 different areas of coastline nationwide under 24 claims for title under the Marine and Coastal Bill.
Te Patuwai Tribal Council chairman Nepia Ranapia, from Motiti Island, says Maori are taking the opportunity to claim the seabed and foreshore under historical claims.
“I am the chairman of the Te Patuwai Tribal Council and we have a right to claim those ancestral areas.
“The Patuwai tribal is an established institution that’s been operating for 141 years. I think it’s the only institution of its kind as the mainland has gone under iwi structure.
“We weren’t subject to that because Motiti Island is not under the Resource Management Act and not under a local body structure. Therefore we are not under the local body act 2002.”
Nepia says the historical claim to Motiti Island and surrounding monuments including the Astrolabe Reef where the Rena grounded, presented itself when the Government introduced the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
“Those ancestral boundaries that circumnavigate the island go back a very long time. What it means is that, we have significant sites and these are ancient monuments.
“These ancient monuments have never been put in the public eye before and we are working on a hapu management plan, which finds those monuments.”
The monuments include natural and manmade rock carvings at sea.
Nepia says Astrolabe Reef is spiritually linked to the island and has been for the last 2000 years.
“It’s a historical claim to those areas and the resources within them. It doesn’t affect the (general) public, but mainly the fishing public.”
He says if the claim goes through, they will start looking at those resources and taking control of them.
“Creating like a marine reserve (around the island) to preserve the fish stock supply to make sure the fish and other resources are around for our grandchildren.”
Nepia says it is up to the Treaty Tribunal to now decide on the claim.
“There are other claims ahead of ours.”
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges did not wish to speculate on what might, or might not happen until a case has had its time in court, if it even gets there.
“The test for obtaining customary title under the Foreshore and Seabed law is extremely high, and makes it very difficult for hapu and iwi to succeed.
“It includes a test so that they need to prove uninterrupted usage of the area to the exclusion of others since 1840.”
He says even if a claim does succeed, access for all New Zealanders is guaranteed.
Other beaches in the Bay under claim include:
-Papamoa Coast, from Omanu to Waiarakei.
-From Te Horo, eastern Bay of Plenty between Ohope and Whakatane, to the west, to Te Rangi, between Opape and Torere, in the east.
-The Eastern Bay of Plenty.
-Kennedy Bay and Mataroa Bay on the Coromandel.