19 Oct 2015

Settlement discussions 'a long time coming'

10:04 am on 19 October 2015

A third chair has been pulled up at Ngāpuhi's settlement table with Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson extending an invitation to opposition group Te Kotahitanga.

A group of protesters - including members of rival faction Te Kotahitanga - take to the streets to oppose Tūhoronuku's appointment to carry out treaty negotiations on behalf of Ngāpuhi.

A group of protesters - including members of rival faction Te Kotahitanga - take to the streets to oppose Tūhoronuku's appointment to carry out treaty negotiations on behalf of Ngāpuhi. Photo: TE KOTAHITANGA

The group, which has long opposed Ngāpuhi's mandated treaty authority Tuhoronuku, is being courted to sign up to a three-way working party with Tuhoronuku and Mr Finlayson in an effort to move the settlement process forward.

A 15-strong group from Te Kotahitanga met with Mr Finlayson yesterday after years of being ignored.

The group represented a number of sub groups, including Ngapuhi's six regional bodies.

Te Kotahitanga said the invitation to work with the Crown and Tuhoronuku validated what Te Kotahitanga had said for the past five years - Tuhoronuku does not represent all of Ngāpuhi.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

After nearly five years of Crown support for Tuhoronuku, both publicly and financially, this new move would see the outsiders come into the fold.

One of its co chairs Pita Tipene said it had been a long time coming. Mr Tipene said they had been ignored by the Crown for years and he was warmed by today's meeting and happy to articulate their position with the Minister, who Mr Tipene said was open-minded and positive.

Te Kotahitanga said they will decide if and who will represent them as a group at a hui in a fortnight. The working party was expected to produce a number of resolutions before the end of the year.

The working group would include a representative for Te Kotahitanga, Moana Tuwhare for Tuhoronuku and Mr Finlayson for the Crown.

Former acting chairperson Ms Tuwhare was stepping up as the representative for Tuhoronuku.

Ms Tuwhare said the three-way party was probably the biggest opportunity Ngapuhi has had in years to resolve the issues plaguing them.

Ngapuhi is the largest iwi in the country with some 120,000 iwi members.

Pita Tipene, a Ngati Hine leader, is concerned about hapu members from overseas, who are out of the loop, being nominated for seats.

Ngati Hine chairman, Pita Tipene Photo: RNZ

Mr Tipene said his contingent have been missing from the settlement process, until now.

Radio New Zealand asked Mr Finlayson for an interview or comment following the meeting but he declined our invitation.

In the letter from the Minister to Te Kotahitanga he announced that Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell had declared a conflict of interest in the Ngapuhi settlement so he was delegating Paula Bennett as the authority on the matter,

Mr Flavell is of Ngāpuhi whakapapa.

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