16 Aug 2012

Tribunal to face ultimate test - Far North iwi

6:59 am on 16 August 2012

Ngati Kahu leader Margaret Mutu says next month's remedies hearing by the Waitangi Tribunal will be an important first and a test of the tribunal's authority.

Ngati Kahu is asking the tribunal to invoke its seldom-used power to order the Government to return land wrongly taken from the iwi.

Dr Mutu says the tribunal, in its Muriwhenua report in 1997, promised to make those orders if the Crown and iwi failed to reach agreement.

But she says Government ministers have in the past threatened dire consequences if the tribunal ever used that power.

Dr Mutu says those ministers included National's Doug Graham, and Labour's Margaret Wilson.

Meanwhile, Te Rarawa leader Haami Piripi says Ngati Kahu's actions could cause serious problems for other tribes.

The remaining four Muriwhenua iwi from the very Far North have been able to reach agreement with the Crown, and they're on the verge of settlement.

Mr Piripi says the problem is that some of the state assets coming back to Maori, like the Aupouri forest, are shared between the five iwi.

He says if the tribunal were to consent in total to Ngati Kahu's requests, that would throw a spanner in the works and delay settlement for the other tribes.

Mr Piripi says Ngati Kahu was entitled to seek a judicial solution to its claim, but he hopes common sense will prevail, in the form of a negotiated solution.