Iwi shuns millions in favour of deal on land

Iwi pride at stake: Te Hiku Forum chairman Haami Piripi.
Iwi pride at stake: Te Hiku Forum chairman Haami Piripi.

A "fiercely independent" iwi says it is turning down its share of millions of dollars in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

Ngati Kahu split from the Te Hiku Forum, representing Far North iwi, as settlement negotiations entered the final stages this year. Chairwoman Margaret Mutu said the iwi was claiming 10,000 hectares of land, not a cash settlement, and wanted a "partial deal" to allow for future payouts.

"The next generations will need to sort out matters of monetary compensation," she said. "It's all about getting the Crown to relinquish aspects of our land, and let's get that over and done with as quickly as possible."

The Crown signed an agreement in principle in January, 2010, to pay $120 million and transfer the ownership of Aupouri forest and seven Crown-owned farms to the five iwi of the Te Hiku Forum. Ngati Kahu's share was $23m, but the monetary component is yet to be finalised.

Mutu said Ngati Kahu quit the forum to write its own deed of settlement, rather than be dictated to by the Crown.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson downplayed the split, saying he hoped to sign off a settlement by June. Ngati Kahu had recently signalled it would re-enter into the collective negotiations and therefore the 2010 agreement in principle remained unchanged, he said.

Te Hiku Forum chairman Haami Piripi described Ngati Kahu as a "fiercely independent" iwi. "They wanted to do things themselves, and not be bound by a common template."

Piripi said the looming Treaty of Waitangi deal would boost the North's economy and inject pride in the iwi – Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto and Te Rarawa.

"We're sick of being an iwi of beneficiaries and relying on the government. We want to develop enterprises on our land," he said. "What emerges from this will be better than what we have. It will impact on our pride and identity."

Mutu said farming deals on land worth $4.8m could attract thousands of Maori home for job opportunities at a time when she estimated about 5000 of the 15,000 Ngati Kahu members were in Australia.

Sunday Star Times