Ngāpuhi 'no closer to settlement'

6:42 pm on 11 September 2015

Settling treaty grievances for the country's largest iwi, Ngāpuhi, was never going to be easy.

Protesters in Whangarei.

Hapū take to the streets of Whāngārei to protest Tūhoronuku's mandate (file photo). Photo: RNZ

The treaty settlements process means 122,000 individuals, from an estimated 300 hapū, must unite under one entity before the Crown will engage.

The rohe (region) stretches west to east from the Hokianga Harbour to the Bay of Islands, and southward to Maunganui Bluff and Whāngārei, and the heart lies at Te Tai Tokerau (the northern tide) in the Far North.

map with Ngapuhi

Ngāpuhi, which has been represented in treaty negotiations until now by Tūhoronuku, is made up of over 100 hapū. Photo: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Despite their best intentions, Tūhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga - the two groups which hold the two factions of Ngāpuhi - haven't been able to see eye to eye on the way forward.

Members from Te Kotahitanga and other hapū, mainly those of Ngati Hine and Hokianga, took a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal alleging the Crown had breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

They said it did this by failing to protect their ability to exercise rangatiratanga in determining when and how they would settle their claims.

And they have been proven right. Today, the findings released in a long-awaited report recommend halting negotiations between the government and Tūhoronuku until mandate issues are sorted.

The report found serious flaws in Tūhoronuku's mandate.

As the findings of the report were made public, Tūhoronuku pushed on - today electing a new chairperson, Hone Sadler, and deputy chairperson, Kara George.

Opposition parties react

Parliament currently has five Northland MPs - six, counting new Green MP Marama Davidson once she replaces Russel Norman, who has resigned to lead Greenpeace New Zealand.

Speaking on the Waitangi Tribunal's findings today, New Zealand First leader and MP for Northland Winston Peters said there was a danger the Ngāpuhi claim could be split in two, or more, and the settlement delayed.

Mr Peters warned the tribunal's advice could not be ignored, and just invited illegal disruptions like the one this week at Kaitaia Airport. He said this was something the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, must note.

From Labour, MP for Te Taitokerau Kelvin Davis said the Waitangi Tribunal was sitting on the fence. He said what they were saying was that those hapū who wanted to withdraw could, and Tūhoronuku could carry on.

Mr Davis said if two groups emerged from the decision the tragedy would be that Tūhoronuku would be a step ahead from the other and would have an advantage in terms of what was on offer.

Both Northland MPs said a concerted effort was required in the interests of the country to get Ngāpuhi representation for its treaty settlement negotiations sorted.

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