Rāhui. It's becoming an important word. It's also been in the news a lot lately. To place a rāhui on something is to restrict or prohibit access, normally temporary to allow replenishment.
This is quite different from a Wahi Tapu, which is a reserve empowered by the Historic Places Act 1993 and is defined as a place sacred to Maori in the traditional, spiritual, religious, ritual or mythological sense. These tend to be site specific but may be an area.
A rāhui has been placed over the Waitakere Ranges by the mana whenua in a bid to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease. Auckland City councillors have voted to support the rāhui in principle. Councillor Penny Hulse described the rāhui as an emotional experience. Mana whenua described themselves as "the guardians of the forest and so they have an obligation to preserve the environment for all Aucklanders". They are seeking to enforce the rāhui via the Biosecurity Act which gives power to the Minister of Biosecurity.
A rāhui is in place in an area of Maunganui Bay/Deep Water Cove near Rawhiti in the Bay of Islands, and this has been adopted by the Minister of Fisheries under Section 186A of the Fisheries Act. The effect has been to close the area to all fishing, except for gathering kina. Fines of up to $100,000 apply to anybody caught breaching the rahui/fishing ban. The rāhui is reviewed by the Ministry of Primary Industries every two years.
And a rāhui was recently placed on a refurbished classroom at the Kaikohe Intermediate School because an elder of a local hapu said the name of the building was "entirely inappropriate" and entry into the building was forbidden. All ended well: the building was given a new more acceptable name. It was later acknowledged that the rāhui was not about replenishment but had been used to make a point, presumably about the need to consult with hapu when a refurbished building is given a Maori name.
The essential issue here is that a rāhui in itself has no legislative powers. It needs to be backed up by an Act of Parliament to confer the power of enforcement. Normally the relevant Minister has the discretion to give effect to the intention of the rāhui - to restrict access - via an Order in Council.
So its importance is largely one of influence - being able to influence a Minister (or local council if the land is owned by a local authority).
The use of rāhui becomes more of an issue in the context of the 580 claims by iwi/hapu regarding the ownership of the marine and coastal area. Of these, 380 claims have been referred to the Minister of Treaty Negotiations who will decide whether customary rights exist. The Minister is likely to ask for public submissions on each of the claims that are accepted for consideration, although the Minister alone will decide and there is no appeal process. The other 200 claims have been referred to the High Court. In those cases, those who file a Notice of Appearance as an interested party (and pay $110 per claim) can be involved in the court process and have the right of appeal.
The claims cover the entire New Zealand coastline and the seabed extending out 12 nautical miles out from the coast to the edge of the Territorial Sea. In most cases there are multiple competing claims for the same area. I will provide greater detail about each of the claims in the Whangarei District in a future article. The list of claims has been requested from local councils.
The issue is an important one to residents, particularly in Northland, where multiple claims have been lodged for the harbours, coastline and seabed. Should title for those areas pass to Maori interests (and in many cases that decision will be made by the Minister of Treaty Negotiations alone) then private property rights would be conferred to the iwi/hapu concerned. Many of the claims make reference to rāhui – claimants want the right to impose rāhui at their discretion.
Rāhui is a word we could be hearing a lot more of in the future.
Those groups or individuals who have an interest in how our harbours, beaches and the seabed are used in the future do need to get up to speed on this issue, quickly. The final close off date for lodging a Notice of Appearance - to have a say in the High Court claims - closes on February 26th, so there is no time to lose.
Frank Newman writes a weekly article for Property Plus.