'Go to hell', Treaty minister tells protesters

10:05, Nov 16 2010

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says Maori protesters wanting to meet him over a Far North coastal area they claim belongs to local Maori can "go to hell".

Members of a hapu (sub-tribe) of Ngati Kahu today occupied a piece of private land next to land at Taipa Point in Doubtless Bay, northeast of Kaitaia.

The protesters, who include brothers Wikatana and John Popata, had in late October occupied land in which title rests with the Far North District Council and upon which the Taipa Sailing Club building lies.

The brothers were previously convicted and sentenced to 100 hours community work for assaulting Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi in February last year.

They left the land last week when 24 trespass notices were issued. About nine or 10 arrests were made.

Today, they set up camp on adjacent land that is in private ownership and again asked Mr Finlayson to go to the site to talk to them about the land.

But Mr Finlayson told media: "They can go to hell because I am not going up there".

"I am not going up to visit with people who are breaking the law."

Mr Finlayson said in a subsequent statement that there was a proper process for negotiating historical treaty claims with mandated iwi representatives.

"That process does not include occupying privately- or council-owned land," he said.

"Ngati Kahu have mandated negotiators. Members of Ngati Kahu need to bring their issues to the negotiating table through those negotiators, rather trying to raise them through land occupation. This would allow them to move forward with reaching a deed of settlement so that benefits of settlement can start flowing to their iwi."

Mr Finlayson said the Crown signed an agreement in principle (AIP) with Ngati Kahu in January for the settlement of historical claims.

The settlement does not include the Taipa Point land.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira said he was disappointed Mr Finlayson had spoken "so disparagingly" about the protesters.

"They are simply seeking the return of lands clearly identified by the Waitangi tribunal as having been improperly taken in the past," he said.

"They have been very respectful even when being abused themselves."

A statement today from Mr Finlayson said the AIP was "for the settlement of all historical claims".

However, Ngati Kahu negotiator Margaret Mutu said on the iwi's website in March that she told a hui "the current settlement cannot be full and final because it does not return all our lands".

Prof Mutu said a 1997 Waitangi Tribunal report agreed that Ngati Kahu's title to the Taipa Point land had never been extinguished.

Council land is treated the same way as private land in treaty settlements, which is not handed back to Maori as part of the current process.

Far North District Council spokeswoman Alison Lees said the land was given to the council in parts in 1928 and 1963.

Police have said they are aware of today's actions but will not comment.