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Fears of ‘costly delay’ in settlement process

HAMISH MACLEAN
Last updated 13:08 18/02/2014
Willow-Jean Prime
Willow-Jean Prime

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A councillor of the Far North District Council says it is too early to welcome the news that the government will begin negotiations on the Ngapuhi Treaty of Waitangi settlement this year.

Councillor Willow-Jean Prime has been involved in the treaty settlement process including the Waitangi Tribunal and the mediation and facilitation process between Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi and Tuhoronuku -- the sub-committee of the Ngapuhi runanga -- which wants to negotiate directly with the Crown.

She says there are outstanding concerns from many in the community involved in the process.

"There is concern that this will be forced and this will be rushed and the issues have not been properly resolved and there is a very real chance that this process could lead to further division, costly delay - and that usually means litigation - and further grievance, which leads to further litigation," Ms Prime says. "That is entirely possible if Tuhoronuku and the Crown continue to push on ahead and not address the issues."

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson and Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples say they have recognised the mandate of Tuhoronuku to negotiate as an independent mandated authority for the settlement of the claims of Ngapuhi, the country's largest iwi. Tuhoronuku will become a separate legal entity from Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi, and new elections will be held for its governance board.

And while the government is praising the process by which Tuhoronuku has sought its mandate, Te Kotahitanga argues that the 76 per cent support received by Tuhoronuku in support of their mandate ought to be discounted, arguing that with under 5210 people voting in support of Tuhoronuku's mandate, the iwi of 125,600 has not supported the process "overwhelmingly" as the government and Tuhoronuku claim.

Far North mayor John Carter has welcomed the central government announcement and urged everybody in the area to get behind and support the process, but Ms Prime cautions that the way ahead may not be so clear.

"We haven't actually discussed this as a council," she says. But adds: "I think the mayor needs to be aware that there are and have been significant issues with the process, and that it is not necessarily going to be smooth sailing if they go continue along the same track."

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