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High Court decision expands Māori coastal rights amid political tensions

Summarised by Centrist 

In a recent High Court decision, Justice Cheryl Gwyn granted Māori customary rights (aka Customary Marine Titles or ‘CMTs’) for five areas along the Wairarapa coastline. CMTs grant holders influence over certain activities within designated zones extending from high-water springs to the 12 nautical mile limit.

The case follows from a Court of Appeal ruling in 2023 where the dissenting judge in that case had expressed concerns that it would become easier for Māori to obtain CMTs.

The current case saw Māori groups agree on geographical divisions, facilitating the allocation of CMT by Justice Gwyn. Despite arguments from the seafood industry regarding historical fishing practices and access limitations, Justice Gwyn upheld the Māori claims, citing insufficient evidence of disruption or lack of access. 

To date, just over 200 court applications for CMTs have been filed by iwi and hapū nationwide, while 385 applicants have pursued CMT through direct negotiations with the Crown.

NZ First deputy leader Shane Jones expressed firm intentions for the coalition to revert the law “to what Parliament intended” but there has been no concrete action as yet. 

Editor’s note: The government provides financial support for those pursuing CMT claims, but not for those in opposition. See our previous coverage of MACA and CMT here

Read more over at Newsroom

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