Thursday, December 04, 2014

A modern Treaty breach

Back in 2011 the Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef and spewed oil all over the beaches of Mt Maunganui. But the government didn't push hard for compensation, and once the initial cleanup was done, it didn't push hard for the wreck to be removed and the reef restored to its pristine state. Instead, it stuck its hand out for a $10 million bribe for allowing the Rena's foreign owners to leave their toxic waste on the reef. Now, the Waitangi Tribunal has ruled that that action breached the Treaty:

The Crown entered into a Wreck Removal Deed as part of its October 2012 settlement with the Rena owners, which obliged the Crown to consider, in good faith, supporting an application by the owners for resource consent to leave the wreck on the reef.

Today's Tribunal decision found the obligations in the deed placed the Rena owners in a special position in the resource consent process in a way that could significantly affect Maori interests in Otaiti.

The Crown signed the deed without having sufficient knowledge of Maori interests in the reef and without having consulted affected Maori, despite it having been "both practical and important" for the Crown to have done so.

The Tribunal found the Crown's conduct breached the Treaty principle of partnership and mutual benefit.

Its unclear what the government should do to remedy this, but an apology to the affected iwi and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing would be a good start.