Tikanga Māori: an integral strand of the common law of New Zealand
Authors: Sarah Down and David V Williams
In April 2020, in Trans-Tasman Resources v Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board  NZCA 86 (Trans-Tasman (CA)), the Court of Appeal upheld the decision to reject the approval of an application to mine offshore for iron ore and remitted the application back for reconsideration by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Trans-Tasman Resources application was the first full hearing by the EPA under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (EEZ Act). However, the findings regarding Māori rights and interests have a number of important implications beyond the EEZ Act.
In particular, the appellate Court’s findings represent a significant step forward for our understanding of Treaty of Waitangi obligations, the Crown’s obligations with respect to as yet unrecognised customary claims and tikanga as a source of common law.
This has ramifications for other areas of law where questions of Māori rights are in debate, not least of all with respect to freshwater.
This article explores the key findings relevant to Māori and the areas of contention that will need to be addressed on appeal, which at the time of writing is before the Supreme Court.