National | Conservation

DOC failed to consult iwi regarding cow burial on Motutapu Island – Conservation Minister

Heritage New Zealand has met with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Ngai Tai ki Tāmaki about the burial of 49 dead cows by a farmer on Doc land on Motutapu Island in December.

The iwi says it was not consulted and that the burial damaged a midden site.

Ngai Tai ki Tāmaki wants all parties responsible for the burial on Motutapu to be prosecuted.

Chairman James Brown says, "You can't treat one [party] in one way and another in another way so on that basis we would maintain our demand that a criminal prosecution is also taken against DOC officials."

It is an offence under the law to modify or destroy archaeological sites without the authority of Heritage New Zealand.

At a Heritage New Zealand meeting with iwi and DOC on Monday, iwi found out DOC had granted the farmer responsible for burying the cows an extension of stay on Motutapu.

Brown says, "He's supposed to be off that farm at the end of this month, then we were told on Monday he's not leaving to the end of March. We weren’t consulted at all.”

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says "DOC has realised it has a lot more work to do to engage with Ngai Tai ki Tāmaki the lease has been extended for another six months so that DOC can do a proper transparent process in case others want to bid to farm Motutapu."

At the Supreme Court yesterday the iwi argued the Crown breached treaty principles under the Conservation Act by granting tourism concessions on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands which iwi objected to. Brown says as mana whenua they should be heard.

"Consequently at the same time outside the court, we're aware of DOC continuing on oblivious to this section, our settlement act in so far as granting a further extension to the farm."

Minister Sage says, "It is before the courts so I can’t comment on that, DOC should take its Treaty responsibilities under section 4 really seriously there has obviously been a failure to do that on Motutapu in terms of consultation with Ngai Tai."

Heritage New Zealand it is considering future steps around the burial matter.