21 Apr 2017

Hapū leader urges decision on vexed Ngāpuhi mandate

11:11 am on 21 April 2017

The government needs to make an urgent call on who to deal with over the Ngāpuhi treaty settlement, a hapū leader says.

Tuhirangi Marae , Waima, Hokianga

Ngāpuhi's Tuhirangi Marae Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson is considering the latest demands from Tūhoronuku, the board that claimed the original mandate to negotiate for the iwi.

The iwi is the country's largest, with 120,000 members.

Pita Tipene, the co-chair of the hapū alliance Te Kotahitanga, said hapū were keen to get on with negotiations but the old guard of Ngāpuhi leadership was erecting an obstacle course.

After the Waitangi Tribunal found the mandate shaky last year, hapū and Tūhoronuku designed a new body to drive the settlement.

But Tūhoronuku now said it wanted more members on the board and people with criminal convictions should be eligible.

Tūhoronuku's former chair, Sonny Tau, was convicted last year of shooting kereru and attempting to pervert the course of justice by making up a false story for the police.

Mr Tipene said the situation was a farce and had to stop.

"Tūhoronuku are really testing the minister's patience," he said.

"Testing the people of Ngāpuhi's patience as well... and the minister really does need to make a call on this because Ngāpuhi are wanting to improve their circumstances and move ahead."

A joint working party of hapū and Tūhoronuku delegates spent much of last year designing a more representative structure to replace Tūhoronuku and control settlement negotiations.

Their recommendations were set out in the Maranga Mai report and accepted by hapū, Tūhoronuku and the minister, Mr Tipene said.

"But what we're now seeing is Tūhoronuku procrastinating at every step, and flip-flopping after initially supporting it and now going back on their word, going to the minister they've now got conditions on progressing Maranga Mai."

Mr Tipene said essentially Tūhoronuku was asking for a cut-down version of what it had before, in order to hold onto the reins of power.

Maranga Mai, on the other hand, was all about decentralising power and making sure the people rather than a small committee had control of their own settlement, he said.

In a brief statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for Mr Finlayson said the Crown had not withdrawn its recognition of Tūhoronuku's mandate.

"Ministers are, however, currently considering the implications of [Tūhoronuku's] advice that it will not implement all the changes recommended in Maranga Mai and the amendments TIMA [Tūhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority] has proposed to the recommended mandate structure."