Te Arawa rejects accusation it was ''captured'' by Rena ownerSave
By John Cousins
Rotorua-based tribal federation Te Arawa has rejected assertions that it had been "captured" by agreeing to support leaving the wreck of the Rena on Astrolabe Reef.
A bus load of supporters from Te Arawa turned up in force today for the third week of an appeal before the Environment Court. Some of them performed a haka in court to demonstrate the tribe's mana whenua or authority over the land on its coastal strip centred on Maketu.
The appeal has been brought by Ngai Te Hapu of Motiti and Nga Potiki A Tamapahore of Papamoa. Nga Potiki has been joined in its appeal by Te Runanga O Ngati Whakaue ki Maketu and the Te Arawa Takutai Moana Kaumatua Forum.
Lawyer Jason Pou defended Te Arawa from criticism from within the tribe that it had been captured by the Astrolabe Community Trust which obtained consent to leave the Rena on the reef.
Mr Pou said Te Arawa initially sought full wreck removal because of the incursion upon its taonga.
"The significant distrust toward the Crown and the Rena owers at the time was evident."
He said the engagement of diver Joe Te Kowhai by Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Makino for Te Arawa was borne out of that mistrust.
"Early information provided by the salvors was that the wreck could not be safely moved and Mr Te Kowhai was engaged to assess that assertion."
Mr Pou said Mr Te Kowhai not only agreed with the salvors but went further to say that significant damage would be inflicted on the reef and surrounding environment if wreck removal was undertaken.