Maori King Tuheitia has been accused of being a pretender in a claim submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal, with a Northland iwi leader saying he's better known as "King of Huntly".
David Rankin, a leader of the Ngapuhi tribe, is challenging the right of the king - head of the Tainui tribe - to use the title "Maori King" because he is not the king of all Maori.
The Kingitanga was set up in the 1850s to present a united front to British encroachment but involves largely only central North Island tribes, with the king's base in the heart of Tainui's land.
"When he pretends to be our king, then he needs to show his mandate for that or else change his title," Mr Rankin said.
"This is not about what Tuheita wants to call himself. That's his problem. And as far as the Government is concerned, they have no right to use the term 'Maori King'. Tuheitia could be called the King of Huntly, perhaps. I could live with that."
No one from Tainui was available for comment this morning.
Government and Crown agencies compounded the issue, Mr Rankin said, with their use of the title, violating Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi which guarantees Crown protection for each Maori tribe's sovereignty.
"Government ministers are always calling him the Maori King ... they don't call the King of Tonga the King of Polynesia," Mr Rankin said. "The Government is meant to protect all our sovereign rights. How can the sovereignty of Ngapuhi be protected, if the leader of another tribe is said to be our king? This is clearly a violation of our tino rangatiratanga."
According to Mr Rankin, Ngapuhi had always opposed Kingitanga (the King Movement) from which the King Country takes its name after a bowler hat was thrown onto a North Island map to denote the extent of the kingdom.
"Tuheitia is not a traditional Maori leader at all. He hasn't even got the Reo (Maori language)]. He is someone who pretends to be the King of Maori, which we find offensive." Mr Rankin said other tribes also found the title offensive.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said Mr Rankin had often voiced similar views.
"He's claiming that he's a direct line, but so is half of the north really."
The king was selected following a meeting of iwi and then asked whether those gathered whether he should be king and it was agreed, Mr Sharples said.
"That was as pretty thorough as I can imagine."
Prime Minister John Key said the kingitana movement had been around a long time and was collectively agreed on by iwi.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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