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Customary title granted to remote area

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/12/2016

The High Court has granted customary marine title over two islands off Stewart Island.

The case taken by Christchurch man Denis Tipene is the first to consider the test set out in the Marine and Coastal Area Act, which replaced the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It covers a small area about 200m in front of a landing area that provides the only access to Pohowaitai and Tamaitemioka islands.

They are are part of the Titi Islands, also known as the Muttonbird Islands.

The area is remote and experiences some of the roughest weather in the country and is only occupied during the muttonbird season.

In a written judgement released on Friday Justice Jillian Mallon finds Mr Tipene has established the applicant group meets the requirements under section 58 of the act.

"The applicant group holds the specified area in accordance with tikanga and has exclusively used and occupied it from 1840 to the present day without substantial interruption," she says.

The applicant group is Rakiura Maori with customary interests in Pohowaitai and Tamaitemioka.

She said an order recognising customary marine title is to be made. The holder of the order is yet to be determined and the parties are to make further submissions on that issue.

Mr Tipene's whanau has the only house on Tamaitemioka. There are 11 families with houses on Pohowaitai Island. The houses are used during the muttonbirding season.

The group granted rights is wider than the whanau who currently have houses on the two islands but the whanau have a sufficient mandate to bring the application on behalf of the applicant group, Justice Mallon says.

"This is the way of these two islands. Those who exercise the fires of occupation make the decisions. They do so on behalf of all those who whakapapa to the islands," she says.

Customary property arises from the prior occupation of land by indigenous peoples and is determined as a matter of custom and usage of the particular indigenous community.

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