A new precedent for hapū settlements?

7:01 pm on 23 September 2016

Analysis - A spat over treaty settlements has seen insults hurled in Parliament, but points at a wider issue around the role of hapū in settlements.

Hapu took to the streets of Whangarei in protest over the mandate.

Protesters took to the streets of Whangarei to oppose Tūhoronuku's appointment to carry out treaty negotiations on behalf of Ngāpuhi. Photo: RNZ

In one case earlier this week, insults were hurled between the Māori Party and New Zealand First, after New Zealand First pulled its support for two of five Treaty of Waitangi settlement bills.

The issue at the core of the dispute surrounds a settlement with Ngāti Aukiwa, a small hapū of the Whangaroa Harbour in Northland.

The hapū, which has always attempted to run its own claim, has instead been swallowed up by the larger iwi claim, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson

Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The government has always negotiated treaty settlements with large natural groupings, but recently Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson accepted changes to the Ngāpuhi settlement, which could see a settlement split six ways, with hapū the driving force.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said Ngāti Aukiwa had claimed Stony Creek Station should be returned to its hapū, not the whole iwi as the settlement bill required.

"This has to be resolved before any bill is passed, otherwise an error is compounded, making a court case inevitable, and who will pay?"

Mr Finlayson, who hoped to sign off Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa's iwi settlement, said the dispute with Ngāti Aukiwa had been a long one.

"It's a very interesting issue that's gone on for some time up in Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, in fact Michael Cullen went there in 2007 and had to jump a fence and was taken out to sea to get away from these people, so it's a very intense issue."

Michael Cullen having to leave Ngāti kahu ki Whangaroa signing after protesters threatened him.

Dr Michael Cullen, a former minister in charge of negotiations, was forced to leave after protesters threatened him. Photo: Independent Media Organisation

Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa has long claimed it is the original owner of Stony Creek, a large farm near Whangaroa Harbour in Northland, and has occupied it for eight years.

The farm was purchased by the Office of Treaty Settlements in 1995 to be used to address treaty grievances, and is now part of the deal being offered to Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, the larger iwi.

Mr Finlayson did not accept the Ngāti Aukiwa argument that its land was being returned to the neighbouring hapū and iwi.

"No, I think it's a mischaracterisation of what we're trying to do here. I'd characterise it as trying to deal with, bring resolution to Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, recognise that Stony Creek is a really major asset here and setting out a mechanism for resolution."

More hapū facing claims' challenges

It's not the first time the issue has arisen - since the Ngāpuhi mandate, under which Tūhoronuku was formed in Northland, nearby iwi Ngātiwai has faced similar challenges.

A family claimant group, Ngā Uri o Whangaruru, has taken an urgent claim challenging the Ngātiwai mandate - claiming the Ngātiwai Trust Board lacked hapū representation and had failed to keep communications with them.

Ngā Uri o Whangaruru spokesperson Huhana Seve at the time said they had tried their best to engage within the consultation process that had been outlined by Ngātiwai Trust Board.

"We've been proactive and unfortunately a lot of what we've suggested, recommended, or wanted to see change in, has not come to fruition."

Parliament divided over hapū settlements

The move by New Zealand First to pull support and delay the final reading in the house is a significant one. Mr Peters said the same problem existed now as it did many years ago.

"Dr Michael Cullen, as a representative of the Crown, attempted to negotiate a settlement, but without success."

Mr Peters called the bill flawed and suggested energy should be put into getting facts and finding solutions so everyone in Whangaroa was happy.

The Māori Party was furious at New Zealand First, calling the move a political stunt.

Co-Leader Marama Fox said it was satisfied the right group was getting the land back.

"So the government has negotiated with the people, and you'll see this in many treaty claims across the country, where land in one area through cross claims is given to somebody else, and they work that out between them.

"We've listened to all of the submitters and we're happy with where things are, but as I say, if they have new evidence to us, or any conversation, we're certainly willing to listen."