A court decision regarding the Motu Koromiri 3J plot could allow charges to be imposed on tour operators using the famous island in Muri lagoon.
The Land Court dispute was between seven families who have a stake on the plot. They were divided on whether to form an incorporation to require operators like Captain Tama to pay a fee for the privilege of using their part of the motu.
Lawyer Ben Marshall represented the family members who favoured an incorporation, while Tina Browne acted for those uncertain about its merits. Land agent Travis Moore represented clients who challenged the selection process and composition of the management committee.
Justice Patrick Savage granted the Koromiri 3J incorporation, but stayed execution of the order until a fresh election is held. He directed counsel to agree how a fresh election will be conducted.
Ngati Teaia Noeline Browne, who is part of the family that owns the plot, said the decision was a win for the Teaia family bid to make operators pay a fee.
The court proceedings are the culmination of a long campaign by the majority family to persuade Captain Tama’s Cruizes to negotiate a fee.
Captain Tama had resisted for many years, Noeline Browne said.
Efforts to contact Tama Tuavera of Captain Tama’s Cruizes proved futile as he is away overseas.
“Originally, the operator was given permission by the family to be there at the request of Papa Tangaroa Teamaru Kainuku to whom he paid a small weekly fee,” Browne said.
“After some 20 years of successful operation on the motu, the family were fed up with the situation and in late 2011 began the process of bringing the operator to the negotiation table. After initially agreeing to discuss the matter, Tama Tuavera changed his mind. That resulted in the family deciding to ban the operator altogether.”
In 2016, Lynn Tuavera paid $4000 as a one-off goodwill gesture at the request of Diane Holford, Browne said. At the time, Holford was interim chair of the family committee in relation to a tribal land matter.
However, soon afterwards, a change of committee occurred.
At an earlier injunction proceedings before the late John Kenning JP, the injunction was in the process of being granted, when Tupe Short suddenly came forward waving an objection letter that he claimed was from the line of Akaiti.
Together with the objections from Papa Tangaroa and the Pittman line, the objections were held to be sufficient to lose the majority.
The family then put all further attempts to negotiate on hold, Browne said. After many ups and downs, the incorporation was granted this month.