New Zealand

New Zealand

Maori tribe seeks share of revenue from wind

NEW ZEALAND: An indigenous Maori tribe in New Zealand has put in a claim to share in any revenue earned from electricity sales generated by wind power in the region of Northland, in the first-ever claim for rights over wind in the country.

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Northland currently has no wind farms, but the largest state-owned generator Meridian Energy is seeking to develop two sites: Ahipara Gumfields and Pouto, which would have a combined capacity of 400MW.

Tribe spokesman Paul Rankin said he wants local Maori to have a share as partners in any commercial wind farms. He has put a claim forward to the Waitangi Tribunal, a body that deliberates on any breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, an historic agreement between most Maori leaders and the British colonial powers that was signed in 1840.

Although the tribunal can only make recommendations, it carries significant weight and a government must give its opinions full consideration.

In recent years Maori have made a number of claims to the tribunal for redress and some have been settled with money, assets and rights.

The claim specifically singles out the revenue-earning potential of wind farms. "When there's a commercial value placed on the wind, then we have to question who owns it," said Rankin.

Other tribes have not joined the claim in the first weeks and Paul Moon, an expert on potential Maori claims in New Zealand, expressed strong doubts over the possibility of the group being given any rights to revenue generated by the wind.

Moon pointed out that a wind farm would not deprive the indigenous people of a scarce resource, such as land or water. He felt the claim was not likely to succeed.

Rankin has admitted the timing of the claim is no accident. He said the wind issue has only come to a head since prime minister John Key made the decision to sell up to 49% of three state-owned electricity companies.

This policy has already seen a concerted effort by Maori to argue for water rights in relation to hydro projects, in what some view as an attempt to derail the sale.

1840 - The date of the treaty under which the Maori are making their claim

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