Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei scores High Court victory with Chapman Tripp’s help

The court ruled that the Environment Court has jurisdiction to look into hapū/iwi relationships in relation to resource consent

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei scores High Court victory with Chapman Tripp’s help
Laura Fraser

Chapman Tripp has guided the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei hapū to a victory in the High Court.

In determining whether or not the Environment Court had jurisdiction to look into hapū/iwi relationships where it affected resource consent, the High Court confirmed that “resource consent decision-makers do have jurisdiction to enquire into hapū/iwi relationships in an area where it relates to a specific resource management issue,” the firm said.

Chapman Tripp said that the court’s ruling “will ultimately help to guide the resolution of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s substantive appeal relating to the conditions imposed by Auckland Council on the resource consent granted to Panuku Development Auckland for its pile mooring development at Westhaven Marina.”

The initial query to the Environment Court was regarding its jurisdiction to judge whether an iwi group has primacy of mana whenua over an area that is at the centre of an application for resource consent. The court shifted the focus of the question from “primacy” and affirmed that it had the jurisdiction to determine the “relative strengths of hapū/iwi relationships.”

Following the Environment Court’s judgment, an appeal was made to the High Court by the Ngāti Maru Trust, Te Ākita o Waiohua Waka Taua Incorporated Society and Te Patukirikiri Trust to challenge several aspects in the ruling, including the Environment Court’s stand on its jurisdiction where hapū/iwi relationships were concerned.

The High Court’s upholding of the Environment Court’s jurisdictional finding was “a significant win” for the hapū, said Chapman Tripp partner Laura Fraser, who appeared in the High Court on behalf of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. The hapū’s appeal on the Westhaven development before the Environment Court will now be informed by the High Court’s ruling.

“We hope to see its effect observed beyond the Council/Panuku arena,” Fraser said.

Senior associate Nicola de Wit joined Fraser in acting for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei before the High Court. They were supported by an expert team from Te Waka Ture, the firm’s Māori legal group, which has helped Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in litigation before the Supreme Court and Waitangi Tribunal.

“The High Court case was developed in partnership with the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei internal team and external advisors,” Chapman Tripp said.

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