‘Maori voices ignored’ as environmental protection group takes fight against Waiheke marina to the High Court
On Friday 24 January 2020, SKP Incorporated (SKP) filed a Notice of Appeal with the High Court, Auckland, appealing the Environment Court’s (EC) decision not to grant a rehearing for the Kennedy Point marina resource consent application (the Appeal). SKP’s rehearing application had focused on new Maori cultural evidence of the Ngati Paoa Trust Board (the Trust Board). That new evidence is that Ngati Paoa does not support the marina, and that as a result the EC should grant a rehearing to properly consider this new and important Maori cultural evidence.
The Appeal represents a significant development and opportunity for SKP and the wider Waiheke community in their continued efforts to overturn the Kennedy Point marina resource consent.
In declining SKP’s Rehearing Application, the EC held that the new Maori Cultural evidence of the Trust Board was ‘new’. Curiously however, the EC held that the Maori cultural evidence of the Trust Board was not important and therefore was unlikely to have affected the outcome of the Waiheke marina resource consent application.
SKP’s position is that the Maori cultural evidence of the Trust Board is, new (as acknowledged by the EC), important (in that it goes to material environmental effects which the EC is required to consider in assessing the marina resource consent application), and as a result, when properly considered, the new Maori Cultural evidence may have led to the EC reaching a different outcome, namely declining the application for a marina at Kennedy Point.
The Appeal centres around allegations that the EC made several ‘mistakes of law’ in that the EC applied the wrong test in assessing SKP’s Rehearing Application. SKP also alleges that the EC incorrectly applied “western standards” in its review of SKP’s Rehearing Application when the EC should have assessed the new cultural evidence from a tikanga Maori perspective and Maori world-view. To this end, SKP assert the EC should have granted SKP’s request to have a Maori Land Court judge sit on the Rehearing Application. SKP alleges that these errors led to the EC wrongly refusing to grant a rehearing. These matters are now before the High Court for its consideration.
The Appeal is not only important for the Waiheke community and Ngati Paoa in their efforts to have the marina resource consent overturned, but is potentially significant for Maori iwi throughout New Zealand as the High Court will be required to consider what level of importance Maori cultural evidence is afforded in regards to resource consent applications. SKP’s firm position is that the views and support of manawhenua are critical to any resource consent application where Maori cultural values may be affected.
The High Court will also have to consider whether iwi groups who have been excluded from resource consent processes have a right to be included, especially where they are opposed to resource consents which have already been granted. With the increasing spotlight on the Treaty of Waitangi, iwi throughout Aotearoa will continue to carefully follow SKP’s Appeal in the hope that Maori cultural views are given the prominence that has been promised to them.