Ngapuhi imploding as iwi meet to vote on the future of their treaty settlement

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson wants claims settled by 2020 and says Ngapuhi is running out of time.
Andy Jackson

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson wants claims settled by 2020 and says Ngapuhi is running out of time.

The country's largest iwi is imploding as it meets in Northland to cast a vote on how it will negotiate a treaty settlement with the Crown.

Emails between Ngapuhi iwi members and letter exchanges with Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson reveal resignations, division over who should have power to negotiate claims and an insistence from the Minister that a decision must be made or the offer will be taken off the table.

Finlayson wants the treaty settlements done and dusted by 2020 but Ngapuhi is currently split over a plan to share power in claim negotiations.

While Finlayson says he's waiting to hear back from Ngapuhi before taking a recommendation to Cabinet on Monday, it's understood he's fed up with the handling of the negotiations and considers Tuhoronuku - the board set up to settle claims - a failure.

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Tuhoronuku has the mandate for negotiations but the Waitangi Tribunal found it undermined the right of hapu to choose who spoke for them. A report titled Maranga Mai followed, which recommended a new structure be created and give hapu control of negotiations.

Tuhoronuku, which is now split between those wanting to keep the mandate and those wanting to adopt the new structure proposed by Maranga Mai, will cast a final vote on Friday whether to adopt the report and give negotiating power to a new board.

In an email from Tuhoronuku chair Hone Sadler to Finlayson this week he asked for clarification ahead of Friday's meeting that the Crown was still planning to negotiate a single Ngapuhi settlement and not break it up into various claims for different hapu.

Finlayson reassured Sadler in a letter that his intention was to negotiate one commercial agreement and Maranga Mai "does not propose 6-8 hapu settlements".

Tuhoronuku supporters are firmly against the idea of breaking up the settlement process and losing their mandate that the Government has already poured millions of dollars into setting up.

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In an email to Ngapuhi iwi members, Tuhoronuku supporter and former chair Sonny Tau said he "couldn't understand the fracturing of Ngapuhi" into various settlements.

"I cannot see how the regional model is going to work for Ngapuhi as the driving of Ngapuhi into a 1840s hapu construct is an ideology and not current reality."

"We see examples of iwi fragmentation right next door to us and they are not nice," he wrote.

Tau said he couldn't support adopting Maranga Mai in its entirety, signalling it won't be a straight-forward vote when iwi meet on Friday.

"I think to bow to pressure from the Crown at this point is lethal for Ngapuhi. This cannot be a choice driven by a Crown agenda. Ngapuhi deserves more than that," he wrote.

The two members of Tuhoronuku largely responsible for the split and formation of the hapu alliance group are Sam Napia and Moana Tuwhare.

According to Sadler's letter to Finlayson the pair have both resigned from their positions within Tuhoronuku - directly reporting to the Crown - after an initial vote to adopt the Maranga Mai report was lost 11 votes to 10.

Finlayson wasn't aware of their resignations and pointed out to Sadler that would "certainly be concerning if the Board was without representation from the Waimate area".

The deadline for Tuhoronuku making a decision about the Maranga Mai recommendations came and went on Tuesday and Finlayson has extended it to allow for Ngapuhi to meet on Friday.

"The board's failure to (report back) has impeded the progress that I think we all need to make quickly if we are to achieve our collective goals," Finlayson wrote.

"However, in the interest of fairness and partnership, I have in good faith, waited for the Board's meeting. As I have noted before, I cannot wait any longer than this."

 - Stuff

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