Andrew Little is wrong to think that hapū in the north couldn't manage their own Treaty settlements, a Ngāpuhi lawyer says.
The Treaty Negotiations Minister told RNZ on Friday that many of Ngāpuhi's 100 or so hapu had difficulty functioning, and talks with iwi and hapu reps were focused on an iwi-wide settlement entity.
Moana Tuwhare said the hapū was proposing six settlements, not a hundred, and Mr Little's remarks were patronising.
"I think it's a very condescending position (for the Minister) to be taking," she said.
"It's also over-stepping his authority. It's not his decision on how we organise ourselves in a post-settlement environment nor is it his decision on how we organise ourselves for the purpose of negotiation."
The Crown had happily negotiated multiple settlements with much smaller iwi such as Ngāti Whātua but seemed hell-bent on treating Ngāpuhi, the largest iwi in Aotearoa, as a single entity, Ms Tuwhare said.
In her opinion that mission was doomed to failure.
Ms Tuwhare said the minister was also scaremongering in talking about hapū numbers and the thousands of Ngāpuhi who live outside Tai Tokerau.
"A hapu-driven post-settlement structure would be resourced and perfectly able to cater for those people, and reconnect them with their hapū." she said.
"In this day and age, it's not that difficult to do - even if you've been disconnected from the north for three or four generations.
"We have our whakapapa experts who will link them, who know who that family will be, and where they came from," she said.
Ms Tuwhare said the hapu had little faith in the idea of a centralised iwi governance body that would distribute largesse to the hapū.
"We already have one of those in the Ngāpuhi rūnanga, and it has not only failed to capitalise on its ($60m) Fisheries settlement - it returns only 11 percent of its annual profits to the people it's supposed to be helping so about 90 percent goes on its internal costs. That's a very poor performance compared with other iwi."
Moana Tuwhare said a number of hapū in the north were making a better fist of running their affairs than the rūnanga was, and were well-equipped to deal with a settlement.
The rūnanga was now spending $200,000 on lawyers, in an effort to set up a post-governance entity, without reference to the hapū, she said.
Andrew Little said the Crown was discussing a two-level structure, that would help build the capability of hapū, and a distribution model from "any centrally-agreed redress that goes out to regional structures and ultimately down to hapū".
Mr Little was happy to travel to Tai Tokerau at any time, and there was another meeting coming up fairly soon.
"I am confident that we've got the basis of something that will work, that will be effective, that will respect what Ngāpuhi especially those living in the rohe want."