Politics | Ngāi Tahu

Ngāi Tahu want Fast-track Approvals Bill to recognise rangatiratanga of territory

The Remarkables conservation area is in the takiwā of Ngāi Tahu. Photo: RNZ / Russell Palmer

This article was first published by RNZ.

South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu want amendments to the Fast-track Approvals Bill to avoid costly legal battles with the Crown.

On Monday, representatives from the iwi made a submission to the select committee on the bill, which aims to speed up the consent process for major infrastructure projects.

Over the weekend, thousands gathered in central Auckland to oppose the bill, citing fears it would degrade the environment.

Opening the iwi’s submission, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaikōura representative Rāwiri Manawatu said Ngāi Tahu takiwā, or territory, took up almost all of the South Island, including about two-thirds of New Zealand’s conservation estate.

While Ngāi Tahu did not oppose the principles of the bill - speeding up the consenting process - the iwi shared the concerns of those who fear the consequences on the environment.

Manawatu said it was important to note the Crown’s apology to Ngāi Tahu - part of its Treaty Settlement more than 25 years ago - expressly stated the iwi had sole rangatiratanga over their takiwā.

“The Ngāi Tahu settlement is the only settlement that have the recognition of rangatiratanga and cannot be ignored. It requires specific recognition in this bill.

“Ngāi Tahu does not want to be tied up in costly litigation. But the solution in our response puts forward other reasonable ways to avoid such outcomes.”

The iwi wants a clause added requiring “decision-makers” to consult specifically with Ngāi Tahu on decisions relating to their territory.

Ngāi Tahu would act without hesitation to protect the interests of Ngāi Tahu whānui, tamariki and mokopuna, he said.

Wairewa Rūnanga is one of 18 smaller entities which make up Ngāi Tahu, representing the interests of the people of the Southern Banks Peninsula.

Chairperson Jaleesa Panirau told the select committee she opposed the bill, and her submission carried the weight of more than 19,000 whānau.

“As a rūnanga with intergenerational views, we approach things with the focus of preserving resources for our mokopuna. Rushing decisions jeopardises this legacy,” Panirau said.

“Expediency should never come at the expense of the environment. If we haven’t learned that yet, then I’m afraid, we’re going to leave a bigger mess for the next generation and the generations to come.

“I believe it’s just selfish, self-centred- self-absorbed and ego-centric.”