Iwi still struggle for legal recognition, a decade after foreshore and seabed legislation replaced

Mohaka Beach, near Wairoa, has been constantly raided over the years for the not-so-secret ingredient to a good hangi – stones.

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Ngāti Pāhauwera has been one of the few iwi able to move through the complex process. Source: 1 NEWS

Toro Waaka grew up here and remembers how easy it used to be to find them.

"A lot of them come from the Lake Taupō eruption and they roll down the river, all the rubbish ones fall to bits and only the good ones end up here," he says. 

"People all around the coast, they come here to get hangi stones because they don't explode, they don't crack.

Hangi stones are on many visitors' takeaway menus here, but something else is brewing.

It's been a decade since the controversial foreshore and seabed legislation was replaced by a new law, the Marine and Coastal Area Act.

But in that time barely any hapū or tribes have been successful in having their customary rights recognised.

One South Island whanau has been awarded Customary Marine Title by the High Court whilst Ngāti Porou struck a deal with the Government just this year.

But other than that, the pickings are slim. 

Another North Island tribe, Whakatōhea, is waiting for its court judgement whilst Ngāti Pāhauwera, which Waaka leads, is currently in the High Court over the issue.

The Hawke's Bay iwi is asking the court to confirm its interests.

It's asked for recognition of its rights such as enforcing the practice of rāhui after drownings, where fishing is banned until tapu is lifted.

"If you put a rāhui on and some people come here and ignore it, the only option you have is to let the air out of their tyres, beat them up or something like that," Waaka says. 

"We don't want to go through that, the law should be the law – our law. It's about our consent."

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little apologised for Labour's introduction of the original Foreshore and Seabed Act back in 2009.

He told 1 NEWS the problem now was the weight of applications that both the Government and court had received by whanau, hapū and iwi groups for recognition of their rights.

All up, more than 500 have been received.

"The challenge has been how to process all of those applications," Little says.

The Māori Party was born out of opposition to the legislation. Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said her own iwi had been told it had to wait until 2030.

She says the issue hasn't been resourced by the Government.

"I think they're hoping that we'll suffer from what they suffer from which is amnesia and it'll get too hard."

Meanwhile, Waaka says his tribe is in for the long haul.

"We're going to keep at it, to make sure that we maintain our environment, our tikanga over things we consider to be the taonga of our iwi."