Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller has given verbal evidence to the Environment Select Committee this week following his petition presentation to Parliament over a year ago.
Muller’s petition, which received nearly four thousand signatures, calls for the reopening of consultation over the closure of diving, anchoring and fishing access to the Astrolabe, Okarapu, Brewis Shoal, Schooner and Plate Reefs off Motiti Island.
“As we know, consultation during the legal process was not open to many of the affected stakeholders and this is what my petition aims to reverse,” says Muller.
“A key piece of evidence that I presented relates to the recent Waitangi Tribunal ruling that Te Patuwai Tribal hold Mana Whenua status on Motiti Island and that the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust does not represent the people of Motiti.”
The Waitangi Tribunal’s findings in Wai 2521 included on page 141 under the heading ‘18.104.22.168 Conclusions on how mana is exercised on the island’, and states:
“For these reasons, we conclude that the Te Patuwai Tribal structure outlined earlier is the legitimate vehicle for exercising mana over Motiti. We cannot accept that the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, which operates independently of this structure, is a legitimate body representing and exercising the mana of Te Patuwai on Motiti. Although the Trust initially had the support of the Motiti Marae Committee, it later lost this support. Since then, it has largely operated under the exclusive guidance of individuals who support the Trust, rather than with the support of the Motiti marae and wider hapū.”
Muller says it is his view, and he believes he can speak for the petition signatories, that the Environment Court’s decision to close the reefs around Motiti was made on the false premise that the appellant MRMT spoke for mana whenua when the Waitangi Tribunal has confirmed that it did not.
“I urged the Select Committee to direct the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to initiate a review of the closure, in consultation with Te Patuwai Tribal, to rectify this process failure,” says Muller.
“At such time we are requesting that the interests of recreational fishers in the Bay of Plenty are represented so they can participate in any future consultation process.
“I strongly believe that the exclusion of both Te Patuwai and our thousands of recreational fishers from this process caused a genuine local injustice.”
Todd Muller's presentation at Thursday morning's Select Committee hearing can be viewed here.