Northland hapū call for treaty negotiation halt

2:45 pm on 23 September 2015

The Northland group that took a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal over Ngāpuhi's flawed mandate is calling on Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson to halt all negotiations.

Protesters in Whangarei.

Protesters took to the streets of Whangarei last year to challenge Tūhoronuku's authority to negotiate on behalf of all of the hapū that make up Ngāpuhi. Photo: RNZ

It's the first time Te Kotahitanga has met since a controversial report by the tribunal found the Tūhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority was an empty body.

The movement, which represents 15-20 hapū and met yesterday at Mangamuka, said the tribunal's report supported its primary position - that all hapū have a right to exercise rangatiratanga when deciding how and by whom they will be represented in the tribe's treaty negotiations.

Te Kotahitanga co-chair Pita Tipene said the group's resistance to Tūhoronuku was stronger than ever, saying "we vigourously oppose the Tūhoronuku mandated authority and we call on the minister to halt negotiations with Tūhoronuku".

map with Ngapuhi

Northland iwi Ngāpuhi is made up of over 100 hapū. Photo: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

His co-chair, Rudy Taylor, added there was only one way forward and it was not through the authority currently engaged with the Crown.

Asked whether Te Kotahitanga could support Tūhoronuku, he said he could not.

Mr Taylor said, since the tribunal's latest finding, Tūhoronuku's position had weakened and it was now in turmoil and its board was divided.

Radio New Zealand invited Tūhoronuku's new chairman, Hone Sadler, to comment but the authority said there would be no interviews until after the board had met.

Te Kotahitangi: Minister ignoring other option

Mr Tipene said six regions representing all hapū have been meeting monthly for the past six years. Under these regions (taiwhenua), he said one settlement could be achieved.

He said an alternative settlement model had been presented to the Treaty Minister in 2012.

"Two years has elapsed and the minister keeps ignoring the fact he has two options on this desk."

In a statement, Mr Finlayson's office said: "The tribunal has not recommended the Crown withdraw its recognition of Tūhoronuku's mandate. It has said that undertaking a new mandating process would neither be practical nor productive."

240714. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Maori from Tuhoe arriving for the final reading of the iwi's Treaty Settlement in Parliament. Chris Finlayson.

Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson did not respond directly to Te Kotahitanga's comments (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Tipene said he could not see Mr Finlayson turning his back on Tūhoronuku.

"The Crown can now no longer turn around after having investing so much political capital and taxpayers' money into what the tribunal calls an empty vessel, so they're not going to turn around in a hurry 'cause they're [going to] end up with egg all over their faces."

Mr Tipene said Te Kotahitanga had been at a disadvantage, running its meetings over the past six years on the smell of an oily rag, while the government funded Tūhoronuku - to the tune, he said, of at least $3 million.

The Waitangi Tribunal had suggested Tūhoronuku sort through its mandate flaws.

Mr Tipene said one of those issues was the election of some of the hapū representatives.

"At the moment Tūhoronuku have got people as hapū representatives who no-one knows."

He said one hapū representative, for example, lived in Sydney - and did not appear to be known to locals.

Mr Finlayson was not able to respond directly to either Mr Tipene or Mr Taylor's comments but said the Crown and Tūhoronuku were at a very early stage of the treaty settlement process, with space for the tribunal's remarks to be fully considered

The Tūhoronuku board is expected to meet in a few weeks and form a response to the Waitangi Tribunal's report.

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