High Court upholds Ngāti Tūwharetoa right to charge for commercial activities on Lake Taupō



26 July 2021


High Court upholds Ngāti Tūwharetoa right to charge for commercial activities on Lake Taupō


A High Court ruling has upheld the property rights of Ngāti Tūwharetoa to licence and charge users for operating commercial activities on the lake and surrounding tributaries.

Ownership of the beds of the lake and certain tributaries was vested in the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board, on behalf of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, under the terms of a Deed entered into in 2007.

Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board Chairman, John Bishara, has welcomed the High Court’s ruling.

“The Trust Board is pleased that the High Court has upheld the property rights of Ngāti Tūwharetoa in our taonga, Taupō moana.

In 2017, we applied to the High Court for a Declaratory Judgment to clarify our property rights on Taupō Waters as provided under our 2007 Deed.

This includes our ability to require commercial users to obtain from the Trust Board rights to occupy or use parts of the lake for commercial activities, and to charge commercial users for the same.”

Trust Board CEO, Shane Heremaia, said several commercial users have been operating commercial activities without charge, for some time.

“While some commercial users have reached agreement with the Trust Board, others have challenged our right to licence and charge for commercial activities on the lake.

So, we applied for declarations from the High Court to clarify the situation for all parties concerned.

The Trust Board was successful on all grounds.”

“That said, the judgment only applies to commercial users of the lake.  Public access to the lake for recreational purposes is not affected”, said Mr Heremaia.

“I wish to reassure our local community and the general public of New Zealand that recreational users of our beautiful lake and rivers are not affected in any way by the High Court judgment.

“As kaitiaki of Lake Taupō, Ngāti Tūwharetoa have always welcomed the general public to enjoy our beautiful lake and rivers – that will continue to be the case.”

In 1992, the Crown signed a Deed with the Trust Board which conferred ownership of ‘Taupō Waters’ in the Trust Board on behalf of the people of Ngāti Tūwharetoa.   The 1992 Deed was superseded by the 2007 Deed.

Taupō Waters includes the bed of Lake Taupō, the space occupied by the water of the lake, certain tributaries flowing into the lake and the Waikato River from the outlet of Lake Taupō to the Rock of Tia (inclusive of the Huka Falls).

Mr Heremaia said the Trust Board had been mindful and considerate of the impact of COVID-19 upon the local community and businesses.

“We know it has been a tough time for our community and local business – to express our understanding and support we choose to forgo any commercial fees when the pandemic broke out last year.”


Click here to read the High Court’s Declaratory Judgment 

Click here to register a commercial operation or event